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The Safety of Legal Abortion and the Hazards of Illegal Abortion

As part of their strategy to make abortion illegal and unavailable, anti-choice forces make unsubstantiated claims that legal abortion is harmful to women’s health. The fact is that the decriminalization of abortion in the United States in 1973 has led to tremendous gains in protecting women’s health. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences declared in its first major study of abortion in 1975 that “legislation and practices that permit women to obtain abortions in proper medical surroundings will lead to fewer deaths and a lower rate of medical complications than [will] restrictive legislation and practices.” The American Medical Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs reaffirmed this finding in 1992 when it attributed the marked decline in deaths from abortion services to “the shift from illegal to legal abortion,” along with the introduction of antibiotics and the widespread use of effective contraception in the 1960s. Furthermore, the experience in the United States is very similar to that in Western Europe, where mortality rates from abortion services were reduced after legal abortion became widely available.

Everyone should be able to decide if, when, how, and with whom they start or grow a family.

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