Almost half of abortions worldwide are not safe

Almost half of abortions worldwide are not safe

According to a recent study by World Health Organization, there were 55.7 million abortions every year between 2010 and 2014 worldwide, and of them, 17.1 million were unsafe.

"Even though it's hard to measure and estimate something like abortion where data is limited, trying to get a handle at least of figuring out what the burden of unsafe abortion might be is important to begin to address the problem", study author Dr. Bela Ganatra, a scientist at the WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research, told CBS News.

Worldwide, millions of women and girls are forced to risk their health and lives each year because of restrictive laws regarding abortion.

The researchers compiled data on abortion from 61 countries from the years 2010 to 2014.

Some 31 per cent of abortions were "less safe", meaning they were either performed by a trained provider using an unsafe or outdated method such as "sharp curettage", or by an untrained person using a safe method like misoprostol, a drug that can induce an abortion. This means the procedure was performed by someone without training who used a unsafe method (including "insertion of foreign bodies" or "ingestion of caustic substances", according to the report).

The number of "less safe" abortions around the world each year.

"While both Africa and Latin America had low proportions of abortions that were carried out in safe conditions, it was striking to note that among the unsafe abortions, the vast majority in the Latin America region were performed under less safe conditions (59.7%) while in Africa the majority of unsafe abortions were performed under the least safe conditions (48%)", she said.

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The study's three categories provide "a much more nuanced way of looking at safety and it helps us to begin to think about what interventions might be needed in which region, depending on what type of unsafe abortions are prevalent in that region", Ganatra said. In these countries, 49.5% of abortions were unsafe.

Deaths are highest in West and Central Africa, at around 450 per 100,000 abortions, although the study authors warn that the mortality estimates are based on data from different time periods, The Guardian UK says. Of those unsafe abortions, the majority were characterized as "least safe". In these countries, 49.5% of abortions were unsafe.

The researchers cautioned that reliable abortion data are hard to obtain, especially in places where it is illegal or otherwise stigmatized.

This has meant that this region has seen fewer deaths and fewer severe complications from unsafe abortions.

She pointed to Nepal, Ethiopia, and Uruguay as examples of countries that have made progress in expanding access to safe abortion procedures, she said.

The study called for less restrictive laws on abortions as this will go a long way in saving women's lives and also encourage women who have to perform the act seek the help of trained officers.

Overall, nearly all abortions in developed countries were deemed safe, whereas roughly half of those in developing countries were safe, according to the findings. Those complications included incomplete abortions, hemorrhaging and infections.