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Nearly Half Of Abortions Worldwide Are Unsafe, Study Says

The findings highlight a strong link between abortion laws and safety.

09/28/2017 11:06 EDT | Updated 09/28/2017 11:07 EDT
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Approximately 2,000 people participate in the counter-demonstration with the Motto 'My Body My Choice'. Under the motto 'Protect the most vulnerable, yes to every child', anti-abortionist and so-called 'lifeguards' marched through Berlin. (Photo by Markus Heine/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Close to half of the approximately 56 million abortions performed every year worldwide are unsafe, researchers said Wednesday in a study.

All but a relative handful of those 25.5 million risky abortions — which can endanger the lives of mother, child or both — occurred in Africa, Asia and Latin America, they reported in The Lancet medical journal.

In many African countries, less that 15 per cent of procedures to terminate pregnancy met minimum medical standards, according to data used to compile the global analysis.

The findings highlight a strong link between abortion laws and safety.

"The highest proportions of safe abortions were seen in countries with less restrictive laws, high economic development and well developed infrastructures," said lead author Bela Ganatra, a researcher at the World Health Organization in Geneva.

The highest proportions of safe abortions were seen in countries with less restrictive laws, high economic development and well developed infrastructures.

The study was based on data covering the 2010-2014 period.

In North America, 99 per cent of abortions were classified as safe, followed by northern Europe (98 per cent), western Europe (94 per cent), and southern Europe (91 per cent).

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Woman's placard reads 'Respect ! Don't touch my right to abort'. For the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, people gathered and rallied in Toulouse, France, for the right of choice to abort as elsewhere in Europe. September 23th, 2017. (Photo by Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Unlike previous estimates, the new study divides the category of unsafe abortions into two groups, "less" and "least" safe.

"Less safe" abortions — accounting for 30.7 per cent of the total — include those induced with the drug misoprostol without the support of professional health providers, or those performed by trained personnel using outdated methods, such as scraping the lining of the uterus with a surgical tool.

Some 14.4 per cent of all recent abortions — more than eight million per year — fell into the "least safe" group, meaning those provided by untrained individuals using dangerous or invasive methods.

Some 14.4 per cent of all recent abortions — more than eight million per year — fell into the 'least safe' group, meaning those provided by untrained individuals using dangerous or invasive methods.

"The vast majority of unsafe abortions in Africa were categorised as 'least safe', and were associated with high rates of death," the researchers said in a statement.

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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) is joined by local lawmakers and womens health advocates to call for Florida Governor Rick Scotts veto of a recently passed measure that they feel severely restricts access to safe and legal abortions on April 27, 2015 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The share of safe abortions exceeded 50 per cent in only three developing world regions: southeastern Asia (60 per cent), western Asia (52 per cent), and southern Africa (74 per cent).

In countries where abortion is available upon request, more than 87 per cent of abortions were deemed safe.

In countries where abortion is available upon request, more than 87 per cent of abortions were deemed safe.

In the 62 countries where the procedure is banned or allowed only to save a women's life, barely 25 per cent of abortions were safe.

"Our findings call for the need to ensure access to safe abortions to the full extent of the law, particularly in low income regions," said Ganatra.

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