Almost Half of the Abortions Performed Every Year Are Unsafe

Nearly Half of Abortions Around the World Are Unsafe

Some 14.4 per cent of all recent abortions - more than eight million per year - fell into the "least safe" group, meaning those provided by untrained individuals using risky or invasive methods.

SPUC researcher Fiorella Nash has written before about how it is misleading to talk about "safe" and "unsafe" abortion.

The researchers made a point to move away from classifying abortions as simply "safe" or "unsafe", and instead grouped them as "safe", "less safe" and "least safe". The abortions are considered "unsafe" either because the woman was taking pills alone without proper advice, or was with a trained helper administering a surgical abortion using, at best, outdated methods.

With improvements in drugs created to end a pregnancy and the spread of telemedicine, women all over the world are gaining access to low-risk, noninvasive abortions. This is not how things are done in a medical or surgical abortion, but it is how some of the world's most disadvantaged women are treated in lieu of decent healthcare.

Developing countries had a significantly higher proportion of unsafe abortions than developed countries (49.5 versus 12.5 percent).

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The overwhelming majority of unsafe abortions - about 97 percent - take place in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Firstly, figures may include deaths as a result of spontaneous abortion, otherwise known as miscarriage, giving a distorted picture of the number of women who are dying as a result of induced abortion.

"Deaths from complications of unsafe abortion were high in regions where most abortions happened in the least safe circumstances".

The researchers analyzed the data to determine how many abortions fit within the WHO's definition of "unsafe". In South-Central Asia, however, less than 1 in 2 abortions were safe.

Provision of safe, legal abortion is essential to fulfilling the global commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal of universal access to sexual and reproductive health (target 3.7).

Abortion is illegal in Nigeria unless to save the life of the mother.

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The study's three categories provide "a much more nuanced way of looking at safety and it helps us to begin to think about what interventions might be needed in which region, depending on what type of unsafe abortions are prevalent in that region", Ganatra said. This is because these places, like northern Europe and northern America 'have less restrictive laws on abortion, high contraceptive use, high economic development, high levels of gender equality and well developed health infrastructures'.

Contraception and sex education are also important, she says, but arguments to ban abortions or increase restrictions to the procedure are not helpful.

Indeed, complications from in-clinic and medication abortions (when done following the correct procedures and under the guidance of a trained individual) are extremely rare.

The study called for less restrictive laws on abortions as this will go a long way in saving women's lives and also encourage women who have to perform the act seek the help of trained officers.

The database aims to promote greater transparency of abortion laws and policies, as well as to improve countries' accountability for the protection of women and girls' health and human rights.

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