Almost half of all abortions performed globally are done so without trained clinical assistance. That’s according to a new study by the World Health Organization.
Overall abortion rates have remained steady at 28 per 1,000 women a year. But the number of unsafe abortions rose significantly from 44% in 1995 to 49% in 2008. Unsafe abortion is one of the main contributors to maternal death and includes procedures outside hospitals, clinics and surgeries, or without qualified medical supervision.
Unsafe abortions are especially common in developing countries, particularly those countries with more restrictive abortion laws. In Africa, for example, 97% of the abortions performed are considered unsafe, compared to 95% in Latin America, 40% in Asia and 9% in Europe.
The WHO also found that countries with restrictive abortion laws did not have any corresponding decrease in the number of abortions performed. In fact, usually the opposite was true, proving yet again that criminalizing abortion does not end abortion, it just unnecessarily risks women’s lives.
Most disturbing from the report is the inescapable conclusion that the progress made during the 1990s in making abortions safer has not just stalled, it has reversed. Setting policy that stigmatizes women and criminalizes the need to end a pregnancy is nothing short of a complete failure of public health policy.
Family planning saves lives, especially in the developing world. Whether it is legal or illegal will will seek and obtain abortions because abortions are a fundamental component of women’s health care. It’s time we recognize it as such.
Photo from Demion via flickr.