Abortions nearly out-number births in Greenland

Despite free contraception, many Greenlandic women don’t use it


One in two pregnancies in Greenland ends up in an abortion, according to a new study of abortion rates in Greenland.

This means the number of babies born in Greenland is nearly equal to the number of abortions — one of the highest abortion rates in the world.

In 2000 there were 887 births and 944 abortions in Greenland, while in 2001 there were 936 births and 809 abortions.

“The high abortion rate is a potential threat to both the reproductive and mental health of the women, many of whom start their reproductive career with an induced abortion,” said one of the study’s authors, Peter Bjerregaard, a Danish health researcher and head of the circumpolar health association.

An earlier study on abortion, conducted in Greenland’s Disko Bay region, looked at the reasons women chose abortion.

“We believe that the main reason is a reluctance to use birth control — but why is a big question,” Bjerregaard said.

The 1996 study found half the women who underwent abortions had forgotten to use any contraception. Another 25 per cent were simply against using birth control.

The study found a high percentage of women seeking abortions were single, unilingual Greenlandic speakers and less likely to have a job. They also reported a history of drinking, past pelvic inflammations or veneral diseases, and previous hospitalizations.

Contraception is free in Greenland, but health researchers are recommending a national information campaign on birth control and the health risks involved in abortion.

Bishop Sofie Petersen, Greenland’s head cleric, called for more debate in Greenland on the ethical questions behind abortion.

“We are guilty of this mentality where we throw away children the way we throw away old toys,” Peterson told the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende.

Peterson said the high abortion rate is reflects Greenlanders’ tendency to avoid discussing social problems such as suicide.

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