Journal Article

Estimates of induced abortion in Mexico: What’s changed between 1990 and 2006?

Context
In Mexico, where abortion remains largely illegal and clandestine, reliable data on induced abortion and related morbidity are critical for informing policies and programs. The only available national estimate of abortion is for 1990, and demographic and socioeconomic changes since then have likely affected abortion incidence.

Methods
This study used official statistics on women treated for abortion-related complications in public hospitals in 2006 and data from a survey of informed health professionals. Indirect estimation techniques were used to calculate national and regional abortion measures, which were compared with 1990 estimates.

Results
In 2006, an estimated 150,000 women were treated for induced abortion complications in public-sector hospitals, and one in every 5.8 women having an induced abortion were estimated to have received such treatment. The estimated total number of induced abortions in 2006 was 875,000, and the abortion rate was 33 per 1,000 women aged 15-44. Between 1990 and 2006, the abortion rate increased by 33% (from a rate of 25). The severity of morbidity due to unsafe abortion declined (as seen in shorter hospital stays), but the annual rate of hospitalization did not-it was 5.4 per 1,000 women in 1990 and 5.7 in 2006. The abortion rate was similar to the national average in three regions (34-36), but substantially lower in one (25 in the South/East region).

Conclusions
Clandestine abortion continues to negatively affect women’s health in Mexico. Recommended responses include broadening the legal criteria for abortion throughout Mexico, improving contraceptive and postabortion services, and expanding training in the provision of safe abortion, including medical abortion.