It is a well-known fact that the problem of abortion is a complex issue that is difficult to study and above all, to measure. This situation is exacerbated when abortion is induced, since its practice is denied and hidden, particularly when it is performed illegally. The denial or inaccurate reporting of abortion is due to a variety of reasons. It is a sensitive, intimate issue for women, which can be painful when it is prohibited by religion, proscribed by various health professionals, and legally sanctioned yet ethically and morally condemned, meaning that abortion is stigmatized and barely accepted by society. When there are restrictive laws on the matter, the interruption of pregnancy tends to occur in clandestine atmospheres, in high-risk conditions for women’s life and health. Moreover, woman having abortions and those that perform them may be criminally denounced.
The omission or inaccuracy of reporting the practice of abortion, which is mainly due to the above reasons, not only occurs on the part of women but also extends to health and judicial institutions and their various agents. This situation translates into the fact that not only is the information compiled on the subject unreliable, given the under-reporting and the subsequent under-registration of abortion cases, but there is also a scarcity of sources that generate data on the incidence, characteristics and effects of this phenomenon.
Several conclusions can be drawn from the studies published that must be taken into account when describing the incidence of abortion between countries and above all, within them. The data presented show heterogeneous estimates that depend on the selection of the population to be studied (general population, school population, students, registers in hospital spheres, etc.), sample size and method used for obtaining the information. Likewise, although certain studies are based on national surveys, the majority deal with very specific local contexts. Other studies have a very small sample size, as a result of which their statistical representativeness is sometimes questioned. Moreover, the description of the methodology and analytical strategy used is sometimes inaccurate, which is why it is difficult to judge the scientific rigor and validity of the data published.
Some specialists on the issue, particularly from international institutions, use more complex methodologies or indirect estimates to approach the problem, although they do not measure it accurately. For this reason, they warn of the care required in interpreting the results obtained.
Despite the difficulties and limitations regarding their reliability, validity and accuracy, existing estimates can provide an approximate overview that alerts us to the scope of a phenomenon like abortion, its characteristics, the different ways it manifests itself, depending on the part of the world or country where this occurs and within the latter, and particularly its implications. Having more precise and reliable information on this is extremely important and useful, not only in order to have more rigorous knowledge of the phenomenon, but also so as to lay the foundations and legitimize the actions of political and public organizations.