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Safe abortion is essential healthcare and a human right.

Unintended pregnancies are common and affect people of all backgrounds around the world.

Between 2015 and 2019, there were approximately 121 million unintended pregnancies per year, with 73 million of these ending in abortion.

For a variety of reasons, pregnant people, women and girls also require abortion care for intended pregnancies.

Restrictive laws and a lack of knowledge about the legal framework for abortion by the public and healthcare professionals alike, result in many pregnant people, women and girls seeking unsafe abortions.

An estimated 25 million unsafe abortions occur every year, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidity worldwide.

However, abortion related deaths are largely preventable by providing access to contraception, safe abortion care (performed in line with clinical best practice), and timely post-abortion care.

Not only is safe abortion essential healthcare, the RCOG and FSRH considers women and girls’ ability to determine their own sexual and reproductive health a key principle for ensuring the human rights of all.

Denying pregnant people safe abortion care may lead to violations of their right to life, their right to health, their right to privacy and can in some cases amount to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

Women and girls should have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies.

The RCOG and FSRH are committed to advocating for safe abortion care globally for everyone who needs it.

Although the vast majority of abortions globally are provided to women, RCOG and FSRH acknowledge that other people (such as trans men and non-binary people) can also experience pregnancy and abortion. In recognition of this, both ‘women and girls’ and ‘people’ who have abortions are used interchangeably in this paper.

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RCOG and FSRH key messages on safe abortion (PDF 622kb)

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