International group calls for better access to safe abortion
Almost half (45.1 per cent) of the 55.7 million abortions estimated to have occurred each year between 2010 and 2014 were unsafe, according to an international research group co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute, US.
They also found that the global proportion of unsafe abortions is significantly higher in developing countries than developed countries, at 49.5 per cent compared to 12.5 per cent.
When grouped by the legal status of abortion, the proportion of unsafe abortions was significantly higher in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws than in those with less restrictive laws.
Senior author of the paper Dr Leontine Alkema, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, US, and her colleagues wrote that although scientific advances now make safe abortion possible at the primary care level, unsafe abortions still persist, resulting in a high “burden of complications”. This includes maternal deaths and high costs to women, families and health systems.
The researchers said that increased efforts are necessary to ensure access to safe abortion, particularly in developing countries.
Dr Alkema said: “Earlier studies on this topic defined unsafe abortions as those that take place illegally or in countries with restrictive abortion laws. This is the first study to produce information on abortion safety that directly relates to the WHO definition and guidelines related to safe abortions.”
The researchers categorised abortions as ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’, creating two subcategories within the unsafe category, ‘less safe’ and ‘least safe’.
Dr Alkema explained that in order for an abortion to be safe, both the method used as well as the abortion provider need to be in line with WHO guidelines.
Unsafe abortions include all other abortions, but those can range from the very unsafe use of dangerous invasive methods, which are provided by untrained individuals, to the relatively safer use of abortion drugs outside formal health systems.