The Fertility Transition in Latin America

By José Miguel Guzmán; Susheela Singh et al. | Go to book overview

9 The Role of Induced Abortion in the Fertility Transition of Latin America

TOMÁS FREJKA and LUCILLE C. ATKIN


Introduction

In every society of the contemporary world there is a demand for induced abortions. The extent of this demand depends on many interdependent factors ( Frejka el al. 1989), which are determined by the stage of the transition from natural to controlled fertility of the respective society. The main determinants of this demand are the developing motivation for a smaller number of children per woman/couple, and the availability, access to, and utilization of contraceptives.

In traditional societies couples practise a minimum of deliberate fertility control through contraception and induced abortion. In these societies the average number of live births per couple tends to be around 7. With modernization a desire to limit the number of births appears and progressively permeates the respective society. As part of this process, marriage patterns and breast-feeding practices tend to change and the desire for a smaller number of births materializes, mainly by practising either contraception and/or induced abortion ( Tietze and Bongaarts 1975).

If a wide choice of contraceptive methods is available; if there is easy access to them; and if couples know how to, and want to use them, then the numbers of induced abortions will be relatively small. If, however, the above conditions are not present, the numbers of induced abortions will tend to be relatively large. The nature of the legal restrictions to induced abortion, the prevailing moral attitudes and cultural values, as well as the political milieu, may modify the relationship of contraception to the practice of induced abortion.

Tietze and Bongaarts ( 1976) hypothesize that there are essentially two extreme alternative trends in the utilization of induced abortion in the transition from high to low fertility. The incidence of induced abortion will be relatively small if historically widespread contraceptive use precedes abortion. Conversely, the incidence of induced abortion will be quite large, if extensive use of induced abortion precedes the widespread use of contraception. Requena ( 1966) suggested that the latter pattern appears to be typical for Latin America.

In this chapter we will present and discuss data and information on the incidence of induced abortion in Latin America. These will be briefly compared to data from other parts of the world. In order to be able to estimate the relative

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