Nearly one in two pregnancies worldwide is unwanted, the UN says

In a report released on Wednesday, the United Nations Population Fund warns of this global public health emergency: there are 121 million unwanted pregnancies each year and in about 60% of cases, this may or may not involve a medical abortion.

A pregnant woman hospitalized in Sierra Leone in 2016 © AFP / MARCO LONGARI

This is an “alarming” situation lamented by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund : Globally, one in two women becomes pregnant unintentionally. However, it is a fundamental right, enshrined in several international agreements since 1979. Direct consequence: more than half of these pregnancies end in abortion. This is clear from the report released on Wednesday by the UN-affiliated organization, which talks about “neglected crisis of unwanted pregnancy“.

A choice that is not an option

This is an extremely high figure: 50% of pregnancies in the world are not the result of a deliberate choice by women and girls. 121 million unwanted pregnancies each year. An even more shocking figure when, as UNFPA reminds us, “Nothing is more fundamental than the ability to decide whether or not to conceive a child. But for too many people, this life-changing choice is not really an option.“.

It highlights the profound shortcomings in rights, justice, gender equality, human dignity and broader social welfare.

And this figure, without concrete mobilization, will inevitably increase as the world’s population progresses, and the situation will worsen due to the different health and environmental situations we will have to face in the future: “Ensuring the sexual and reproductive health services needed by individuals and communities will be even more difficult in the face of the deep disruptions caused by climate change, conflict, public health emergencies and mass migration.

Various origins

Various factors cause this state of erosion of free will: economic, geographical and health barriers (difficulties in accessing sex education, information, contraception or health services, etc.), cultural barriers (patriarchy, religion, etc.) but also crisis situations. and various wars that can lead to acts of sexual violence and coercion. According to the report, in 64 countries, for example, “23% of married women of childbearing age cannot refuse sex. (…) Only 57% of women can therefore exercise their choices regarding their health and their sexual and reproductive rights.

In Sierra Leone, for example, UNFPA points out, young girls are especially affected: “Adolescent pregnancy and maternal mortality rates in the country are among the highest in the world. Widespread sexual violence is aimed primarily at children and has dire consequences. The most vulnerable young girls are likely to be attacked or approached by children and older men when they venture to fetch water, sell goods, or even go to school.

It is too early to comment on the situation in Ukraine, but it is clear that the Russian invasion, with the bombing of hospitals, the deterioration of hospital services, population displacement and possible abuses observed in all wars, will have legal consequences. of women whether or not they want to get pregnant.

Contraception and abortion

For the UN, it is essential to act on access to contraception.According to global estimates, 257 million women who want to avoid pregnancy do not use modern and safe contraceptive methods, and of these, 172 million do not use any contraceptive method.“We can read in the report. There are many modern and safe contraceptives in the world, but they are not always accessible to everyone. A situation that is not due to”the lack of information on the different contraceptive methods and the limited access to them“but to”worries about side effects, persistent myths, stigma, and opposition from those around you“.

One of the direct consequences of unwanted pregnancies is the recourse to abortion. More than 60% of these situations result in an abortionwhether medicalized or not, legal or illegal“However, the proportion of unsafe abortions reaches almost 45% and 7 million women end up hospitalized because of these practices, making it a”public health emergency “ by UNFPA.

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