Nearly half of the 55.7 million abortions that take place globally each year are unsafe and putting women’s lives at risk, a study said on Wednesday, calling for greater access to contraception and safe terminations.
The study, led by The World Health Organization (WHO) and New York’s Guttmacher Institute, found 25.5 million abortions every year were conducted outside the formal health system or using traditional, invasive means.
The majority of these – 97 percent – were taking place in Africa, Asia and Latin America, affecting 24 million women, according to the research published in The Lancet medical journal.
According to the WHO, around 47,000 women die from botched abortions each year, accounting for almost 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide.
The study’s lead author Bela Ganatra from WHO said the laws and wealth of a country influenced the safety of abortions with the highest proportion of safe abortions in wealthier countries with less restrictive laws and well developed health services.
“Increasing the availability, accessibility and affordability of contraception can reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancies, and therefore abortions,” Ganatra said in a statement. “But it is essential to combine this strategy with interventions to ensure access to safe abortions.”
The study found out nearly nine out of every 10 abortions in developed countries were safe, meaning they were conducted by a trained provider and using a WHO recommended method.
In 57 countries where abortion was available on request, nearly 90 percent of abortions were safe.
But only about 25 percent of abortions were safe in 62 countries where terminations are banned or only allowed if a woman’s life or health are at risk.
Africa was the worst region with the majority of unsafe abortions there categorised as “least safe” and associated with higher rates of death, the study said.
In Latin America, where health systems are considered to be more functional than those in Africa, abortions were classified as “less safe” rather than “least safe”.
“The highest proportions of safe abortions were seen in countries with less restrictive laws, high economic development and well developed health infrastructures suggesting that both the legal framework and overall development of a country plays a role in abortion safety,” said Ganatra.