Improving access to safe abortion

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Unsafe abortion continues to be a major public health problem. An estimated 25 million abortions are performed unsafely each year, resulting in the death of an estimated 47,000 women and an additional five million are hospitalised due to complications.

To thoroughly understand the differing national views on abortion, and the capacity of ten FIGO national member societies, this year FIGO, with our partners KIT Royal Tropical Institute, have undertaken a comprehensive needs assessment.

The aim was to learn as much as possible in order to develop a proposal to strengthen the capacity of each member society, in particular to raise their capacity to lead safe abortion advocacy efforts and bring change to their countries.

The needs assessment involved literature reviews, online surveys, key informant interviews and workshops in eight countries in Africa and two in Latin American. The result, incredibly comprehensive reports for each country, have already helped FIGO and other organisations understand the situation better and focus our work accordingly.

Overarching key findings from the ten assessments include: 

  • Each country has a 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.

This reflects positively on our member societies, who show willingness and strength to be change makers.

Take a look at the country needs assessment reports:

FIGO is committed to advocating for safe abortion services wherever women are at risk. Following our comprehensive needs assessment, we remain dedicated to supporting these ten countries to improve access to safe abortion.  

We look forward to sharing more about this exciting project in the coming months.

Find out more about FIGO’s Safe Abortion Initiative.