Unwanted pregnancies in sweden and in france : the balance

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Unwanted pregnancies and abortion in Sweden, the balance

Benoit GEOFFROY Mid Sweden University, department of social work


Unwanted pregnancy is a worldwide problem that often leads to abortion, both legal and illegal. In Sweden since 1975, the year the actual Abortion act was promulgated, the average number of abortions is around 30.000 a year (Wilow K & Liber AB, 2000),but this number is increasing and reached 38.053 in 2000, as against 30.771 10 years earlier. More generally, abortion levels in Northern Europe and parts of Western Europe are among the lowest in countries with legal abortions. Furthermore, the teenage fertility rate in Sweden is one of the lowest in Europe, nevertheless, the teenage abortion rate among teenagers increased by 50 % between 1995 and2002. It raises a true social and public health problem: an increased number undesired pregnancies involves an increased number of sexually transmitted disease (STD). Furthermore, for many, an abortion act is not a simple one and can be very unsettling, particularly for young girls, and can involve existential and ethical/moral conflicts. As prevention, contraception and abortion seem to belinked, we wonder what can be done in order to curb this trend? First, we will talk about the abortion in Sweden and its history, then we will discuss about the prevention policy in the country. Next, we will address about the risk factors for unwanted pregnancies. Finally, we will make a short comparison with France and try to find some solutions to contain this tendency.

Abortion in Sweden:history, general facts and trends

The first Abortion Act in Sweden came into force in 1938. According to this Act, an abortion was allowed for three reasons: medico-social if the birth of the child would represent a threat to the woman’s life and health, humanitarian before 15 years old or in case of rape/incest, and finally eugenic to avoid hereditary defect in the child. Thirty-seven years aftercame up the new abortion law, in January 1975. It became legal to have an abortion up to the end of week 18 of pregnancy and every woman received the right to have an abortion without explaining her reasons. After this Act and until now, around 30.000 in average were realized in Sweden, it represents approximately 25 % of the pregnancies. In 2004, 34.454 abortions were performed in the country.Between 1975 and 1985, the number of teenage abortions decreased from 30/1000 to 18/1000 (Danielsson, Rogala and Sundström, 2001) mainly because of reforms in school sex

education, contraceptive services and the abortion law. After 1985, it increased, decreased and increased again. But since 1995, the growth is worrying: it has risen by 50%, so be it 25 in every 1000 girls per year as against17/1000 in 1995 (Tydén, Aneblom, von Essel, Häggström-Nordin, Larsson and Odlind, 2002). It can be explained because during the 1990s, schools have suffered budget cut backs and as a result sex education was taught less. Drugs and alcohol lead to risk behaviors, and the fact that their use increased during the 1990s can be an additional explanation. Moreover, the incidence of casual sex withoutcontraceptive use increased (Edgardh, 2007), maybe as a consequence of the two previous reasons.

Prevention in Sweden

Sexual education at school is the cornerstone of an efficient prevention against STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Sex education has been compulsory at school since 1956 and is considered as a part of public health policy and often referred as an important part of STDs prevention andpromotion of sexual health. The goal of sexual education is to prepare young people for a responsible sexual life and the key words are knowledge instead of ignorance, openness and facts instead of mysteries. Schools do not state or impose any opinion regarding pupil’s choices. Sexuality education in Sweden teaches tolerance and facts about sexual and reproductive health such as anatomy, sexual...