Does the Netherlands have the lowest abortion rate in the world? No, that's not true: Although the Netherlands has a low abortion rate, with data showing that it has an estimated average annual rate of seven abortions per 1,000 women, it is not the lowest in the world. That title belongs to both Singapore and Switzerland, which, according to the same dataset, have an estimated average annual rate of five abortions per 1,000 women.
The claim appeared in a Facebook post on May 5, 2022. The post includes a graphic that opens:
In the Netherlands, abortion is freely available on demand. Yet the Netherlands boast the lowest abortion rate in the world, about 6 abortions per 1,000 women per year, and the complication and death rates for abortion are miniscule.
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu May 6 20:53:41 2022 UTC)
The Netherlands does have a low abortion rate, according to first-of-their-kind data published by BMJ Global Health and gathered by researchers from the Guttmacher Institute, the World Health Organization and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The data, which were recorded from 2015 to 2019, estimated that the Netherlands has an annual average of seven abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 49. As the Facebook post mentions, abortion is available in the country upon request, although there are stipulations including a five-day wait time and parental consent for minors.
The Facebook post also claims that the Netherlands has an adolescent pregnancy rate that is nine times lower than that of the U.S. However, a fact sheet from the Guttmacher Institute suggests that, based on data from 2011 and 2008, the adolescent pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is only four times lower than that of the U.S.
Based on the countries with available data, the Netherlands does not hold the title of the country with the world's lowest abortion rate. With an estimated average annual rate of five abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 49, Singapore and Switzerland are the countries with the world's lowest abortion rates. Both Singapore and Switzerland allow abortions upon request.
With an estimated average annual rate of 80 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-49, Georgia has the highest abortion rate of all of the countries included in the dataset. The U.S. has an estimated average annual rate of 12 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-49. However, the researchers noted that some countries had more reliable and available data than others.
As the Facebook post suggested, research from the Guttmacher Institute does support the idea that countries with restrictive abortion policies have higher unintended pregnancy rates and higher abortion rates.
Lead Stories has debunked other claims about abortion in fact checks that can be found here.