Working group urges better access to safe abortion, in developing world

September 28, 2017, University of Massachusetts Amherst

On International Safe Abortion Day, Sept. 28, an international research group reports in a new paper with senior author Leontine Alkema at the University of Massachusetts Amherst that out of the 55.7 million abortions that are estimated to have occurred each year between 2010 and 2014, almost half (45.1%) were unsafe.

Further, they found that the global proportion of unsafe abortions is significantly higher in developing countries than developed countries, 49.5 percent vs. 12.5 percent. "When grouped by the legal status of , the proportion of unsafe abortions was significantly higher in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws than in those with less restrictive laws." Details are in the current issue of The Lancet.

Alkema, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at UMass Amherst and lead statistician on the project, with her biostatistics graduate student Zhenning Kang and 11 other members of a working group on estimating global abortion incidence and safety co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute, write that while scientific advances now make safe abortion possible at the primary care level, "unsafe abortions persist, and result in a high burden of complications," including maternal deaths and high costs to women, families and health systems.

They urge that "increased efforts are needed, especially in developing countries, to ensure access to safe abortion."

Using "all available empirical data on abortion methods, providers and settings" and taking into account factors affecting safety they estimated the distributions of abortion worldwide by safety categories based on the WHO definition of unsafe abortion and WHO guidelines on safe abortion.

Alkema says, "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 categorized abortions as "safe" or "unsafe" and created two subcategories within the unsafe category, "less safe" and "least safe". This distinction was used to offer "a more nuanced description of the spectrum of varying situations that constitute ."

As Alkema explains, "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 range from the very unsafe use of dangerous invasive methods provided by untrained individuals to the relatively safer use of abortion drugs outside formal systems. Hence the further break-down of unsafe abortions into less and least safe is important to provide a better understanding of abortion ."

Of the 25.1 million unsafe abortions that occurred annually between 2010 and 2014, 8.0 million were estimated to be least safe. Of these least safe abortions, almost all, practically 100 percent, according to Alkema, occurred in developing countries.

Explore further: More providers of safe abortion care can save thousands of women's lives

Related Stories

More providers of safe abortion care can save thousands of women's lives

February 1, 2017
A change in attitudes, increased knowledge and more non-physician healthcare providers trained to perform safe abortions – this is the recipe for increasing the number of caregivers offering abortion care and fighting global ...

Dutch 'abortion ship' due in Guatemala

February 23, 2017
A Dutch "abortion ship" was Thursday due to arrive in a Guatemalan port to provide free help to women to end unwanted pregnancies, aiming to circumvent the country's strict laws.

Nepal: 15 years after legalizing abortions, gaps in access, equity, quality continue to exist

June 8, 2017
Nepal is often heralded as a model of successful implementation and rapid scale-up of safe abortion services. Yet despite the legalization of the procedure in 2002, challenges continue to exist for women who want to obtain ...

Chile Congress OK's bill to legalize abortion in some cases

August 3, 2017
Chile's Congress has approved a bill that would legalize abortion in limited circumstances—ending the country's status as the last in South America to ban all abortions.

UK doctors' union calls for change in abortion law

June 27, 2017
The British Medical Association, which represents the country's doctors, said Tuesday abortions should not be a criminal offense and called for them to be regulated in the same way as other health procedures.

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.