New study laments 1.2 million yearly abortions in Nigeria

o-ABORTION-facebookDESPITE being highly restricted, abortion is still very common in Nigeria, says a new study by Guttmacher Institute and the University of Ibadan.

The study, released in Abuja yesterday, indicates that an approximate 1.25 million abortions occurred in the year 2012, up from 610,000 that occurred in 1996.

The study entitled: “The Incidence of abortion in Nigeria” attributed the increase to greater population size and an apparent rise in the abortion rate.

\According to the findings, the estimated abortion rate was 33 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-49 in 2012. Although this rate is greater than the 1996 rate (23 per 1,000), estimated in the previous study, the most prudent conclusion may be that the abortion rate has increased slightly, as the two rates were calculated using different approaches.

Researchers who conducted the study found that Nigeria has low levels of contraceptive use, stressing that as a result, about one-quarter of the 9.2 million pregnancies that occurred in the country in 2012 were unintended. They noted that more than half (56 percent) of these unplanned pregnancies ended in abortion.

One of the lead researchers, Prof. Isaac Adewole noted: “When contraception is not used or fails, the evidence suggests that women with unwanted pregnancies often have unsafe abortions that put them at risk for adverse consequences. We hope these findings inform discussions on the public health benefits of allowing expanded access to comprehensive abortion care for Nigerian women.”

The study highlighted how abortion rates vary within Nigeria.

For instance, it found the highest rates in the North East (41 per 1,000 women) and South South (44 per 1,000 women) zones. The researchers posit that the high rate in the North East zone, including the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe, is linked to particularly high levels of contraceptives non-use, as more than 96 percent of women in those regions do not use a contraceptive method and thus face a high risk for unintended pregnancy. In the South South zone, which includes Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers, the high rate of abortion may be related to the combination of women having a strong desire to control family size and a relatively high level of unmet need for contraception.

Director of International Research at the Guttmacher Institute, Dr. Akinrinola Bankole, stressed that abortion is legal in Nigeria only when performed to save a woman’s life. “Still abortions are common, and most are unsafe because they are done clandestinely, by unskilled providers or both,” he noted.

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