Millions of women around the world have no access to reproductive health services. Many more have little or no control in choosing whether or not to become pregnant, and have little or no information about safe abortion services. As a result, each year approximately 19 million women resort to having an unsafe abortion.
Many of these women die as a result; many more are permanently injured. Nearly all these women are poor and live in developing countries (IPPF 2006), a fact which renders unsafe abortion a pressing social justice, public health and development issue.
Latin America and the Caribbean not only hold the sad distinction of having the greatest level of inequality in the world (ECLAC 2005), but the region also has the highest rate of unsafe abortions. Every year, an estimated 4 million unsafe abortions occur in the region, 70 per cent of which are performed on women under the age of 30 (WHO 2007). The region’s restrictive abortion laws directly contribute to the circumstances that force women facing an unwanted pregnancy to resort to unsafe and clandestine abortion practices.
Changes to abortion-related laws and policies are currently being debated across Latin America and the Caribbean. While the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR) actively supports these legal reform efforts, the organisation and its member associations simultaneously have a responsibility to offer a range of options to women facing an immediate need for services for an unwanted pregnancy. In response, IPPF/WHR has developed a framework for its abortion-related work, based on three complementary strategies: promoting the right to safe and legal abortion, increasing access to abortion services, and reducing the need for abortions by promoting comprehensive sexuality education and access to contraception. Using this framework, IPPF/WHR developed a model to address unsafe abortion and to offer real options to women in the region, which includes a range of both service and advocacy components
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 39.3 (2008) A Rights‐based Model: Perspectives from Health Service Providers