A research conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that there are approximately 56 million abortions every year and nearly half of them are unsafe.
Findings show that there were 55.7 million abortions every year between 2010 and 2014 worldwide, and 17.1 million of them were unsafe because the woman was taking pills alone or was with a trained helper but using a method of abortion that is no longer considered best practice.
Eight million abortions, categorised as “least safe”, involved desperate and dangerous measures, from swallowing toxic substances to inserting wires to try to bring about a miscarriage.
The highest levels of unsafe abortions were in Africa, where only about one in four are safe and as a result abortion deaths are high.
Figures from the study commissioned by WHO and Guttmacher Institute, reveal that there are fewer abortions in places where abortion is safest, such as in northern Europe and northern America where women can get contraception easily.
Researchers explain that most countries in those two regions “have less restrictive laws on abortion, high contraceptive use, high economic development, high levels of gender equality, and well-developed health infrastructures”.
Lead researcher, Dr Bela Gunatra, from the WHO, says that safe abortion is a very safe procedure. It can be provided at primary healthcare level. It isn’t even necessary that it has to be a procedure. “Now you can use tablets, there is nothing that requires this to be highly resourced.”
In Latin America, where many countries have a ban on abortion in nearly all circumstances, women have resorted to misoprostol, a tablet which they can access online, ideally taken with mifepristone as well.
“It is a very safe method that women are taking into their own hands,” Gunatra added.
Gunatra said their findings “call for the need to ensure access to safe abortions to the full extent of the law, particularly in low-income regions of the world, and efforts are needed to replace the use of unsafe methods with safe methods.”