Of the 55.7 million abortions that take place worldwide every year, 25.5 million are unsafe according to a new study published in The Lancet. Nearly half of all abortions are unsafe, with the vast majority of these (97%, 24 million) taking place in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
An estimated 30.7% of all abortions (17.1 million) were classified as less safe - for instance if the abortion was done by a trained provider but with an outdated method, or if the abortion was done with a safe method, but without the support of a trained person. An estimated 14.4% of all abortions (8 million) were classified as least safe if they were provided by untrained individual using dangerous or invasive methods.
Countries with high proportions of safe abortions were also more likely to have less restrictive laws, which might provide a more enabling environment for trained providers and access to safe methods. In the 57 countries where abortion was available on request, 87.4% of all abortions were safe, compared with 25.2% in the 62 countries where abortion was banned or allowed only to save a woman’s life or to preserve her physical health. In countries with restrictive laws, nearly one third (31.3%) of abortions were classified as least safe.
Commenting in response to these latest estimates, Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:
“These alarming figures highlight the fundamental need for girls and women to be able to access safe, timely, high quality abortion care, particularly in developing countries. These girls and women also need access to effective family planning and contraception in order to empower them with the ability to choose whether they become pregnant. These key healthcare services are vital in order to protect girls and women’s lives and improve the survival and wellbeing of their existing children .
“The RCOG supports the rights of girls and women across the world to access these crucial healthcare services. We are committed to working in partnership with organisations in the UK and worldwide  to educate, train and support healthcare professionals to ensure a sustainable workforce that provides girls and women with safe, high-quality, compassionate care.”
Note to Editors
1. Guaranteeing access to available, acceptable, high quality family planning services is critical to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG5) of achieving gender equality and empowering all girls and women by 2030.
2. The RCOG’s Leading Safe Choices programme is committed to improving girls and women’s health in sub-Saharan Africa by expanding contraceptive choice, particularly long-acting reversible methods such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, and improving access to safe abortion services. We have started pilot projects across 20 large maternity hospitals and midwifery units aimed at developing and implementing training courses on postpartum contraception and comprehensive abortion and post-abortion care alongside our partners in South Africa and Tanzania.