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RCOG statement: Lancet study examines global abortion rates

News 12 May 2016

A Lancet study has found that abortion rates have declined significantly over the last 25 years in developed countries and are at a historic low. But in developing countries, where many abortions are unsafe, rates have remained level, highlighting the urgent need for better access to modern contraception to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions. 

Professor Alison Fiander, Clinical Lead for the Leading Safe Choices programme at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:

“Despite the declining rates of abortion over the last 25 years across developed countries, this study highlights that in developing countries, where many abortions are unsafe, rates have remained static.

“Approximately 225 million women in the world have no access to family planning and therefore little control over whether and when they become pregnant. Providing these women with the choice to use effective contraception and to space their babies by 24 months or more, would prevent 54 million unintended pregnancies, 79,000 maternal deaths and 1.1 million infant deaths.

“On top of this, around 22 million unsafe abortions take place each year, resulting in the death of nearly 50,000 women. Another 5 million women suffer injury as a result of complications due to unsafe abortion, often leading to chronic disability. Safe abortion should be and can be available and accessible for all women to the full extent that the law allows.

“The RCOG’s Leading Safe Choices programme is committed to improving 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. This year we have started pilot projects across 10 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.”


For media enquiries, please contact the RCOG press office at 020 7772 6444 or email