Advocating for Safe Abortion Project

Duration: 2017 - present

Donor: anonymous

Project contact:

Jessica Morris, Project Manager

What is the difference between safe and unsafe abortion?

Of the 56 million induced abortions that took place each year between 2010–2014,
an estimated 25 million (45%) were unsafe.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines safe abortions as those carried out 
with a WHO recommended method that is appropriate to the pregnancy duration,
and if the person providing or supporting the abortion is trained. Unsafe abortions are
those carried out by an individual who does not have the necessary training, or in an
environment not conforming to minimal medical standards, or both.


Due to scientific advances, abortions can now be carried out very safely and simply with tablets (medical abortion) or as an outpatient procedure. However, many women cannot access safe abortion services due to various barriers including: restrictive laws and unnecessary regulations, poor availability of services, cost, stigma, and conscientious objection of health-care providers. This leads to girls and women having unsafe abortions. Every year approximately 7 million women are admitted to hospitals in low and middle-income countries as a result of unsafe abortion and more than 22,800 girls and women die.

What we do

The core aim of the project is to raise the capacity of, and enable ten national obstetrics and gynecology societies, to lead advocacy on safe abortion in their respective countries.

This project is split into two phases: Phase I needs assessment and Phase II implementation.

Phase I
In order for FIGO to provide the right level and content of capacity building to the national societies, we had to first thoroughly understand the current situation, both in the country and in terms of capacity of the national society to lead advocacy efforts. Phase I involved a comprehensive needs assessment.  

Phase II
The needs assessment will inform the design for the next phase of the project, where these capacity building efforts will take place. The Safe Abortion Project builds on a previous project – the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion Initiative, funded by the same anonymous donor from 2007-2016.

Key findings

Here are the key findings from the country needs assessment:

  • The countries have diverse legal frameworks, ranging from restrictive to fully liberalised (abortion on demand)
  • There is a lack of accurate national data on abortion prevalence and its contribution to maternal mortality
  • Pro-safe abortion actors were strong but not always outspoken or unified, while in some countries opposing actors were very powerful.
  • The preferred terminology to address safe abortion differs in each country. In some, there is a preference for more sensitive terminology, such as Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC) or ‘preventing unsafe abortion’
  • National societies of obstetrics and gynaecology are by definition a heterogeneous group of medical professionals and within all societies, there is a diverse range of opinions on abortion.
  • Societies have credibility as technical experts and also on the safe abortion subject. All societies have individuals who are extensively engaged as advisors on safe abortion, e.g. in the development of national guidelines.

To find out more about individual countries, please see the project materials below.

Project materials

Country needs assessment reports: 

The impact of safe abortion

Empowering Member Societies. Safe abortion services for all women. The Global Gag Rule.


Latest news


Induced abortion in Africa and Asia.