Half of All Abortions Now Unsafe, Study Finds


By Mathilde Bagneres

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 19, 2012 (IPS) – The proportion of abortions deemed unsafe rose from 44 percent in 1995 to almost half (49 percent) in 2008, according to a new study released Thursday.

Launched in London, “Induced Abortion: Incidence and Trends Worldwide from 1995 to 2008″ by the Guttmacher Institute and World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that in 2008, the global abortion rate was 28 per 1,000, virtually unchanged since 2003.

However, in hard numbers, there were 2.2 million more abortions in 2008 (43.8 million) compared with 2003 (41.6 million) due to the growing global population. Since 2003, the number of abortions fell by 0.6 million in the developed world, but increased by 2.8 million in developing countries.

According to a WHO report from March 2011, unsafe abortion is one of the three leading causes of maternal mortality, along with haemorrhage and sepsis from childbirth.

“The number of unsafe abortions has increased from 19.7 million in 2003 to 21.6 million in 2008,” Dr. Iqbal Shah from the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research in Geneva and one of the report’s co-authors, told IPS.

“The numbers have gone up primarily because of the increase in the size of women’s population in the reproductive age of 15-44 years, without accompanying a rise in modern contraceptive uptake or access to safe abortion,” he explained.

“One can safely say that the unsafe abortion rate of 14 per 1,000 women in ages 15-44 years has not gone down from 2003 to 2008,” he added.

Researchers found that nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe procedures, and almost all unsafe abortions occur in the developing world, placing the health and lives of millions of women and adolescent girls at risk.

Unsafe abortion is defined by WHO and the authors of the report as a procedure for terminating a pregnancy that is performed by an individual lacking the necessary skills, or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both.

Shah also stressed that the reason for the lack of progress in reducing unsafe abortions has been the lack of progress in contraceptive uptake in recent periods, and lack of progress in improving access to safe abortion.


Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.