Increase in unsafe abortions ‘deeply disturbing’

London: A rising proportion of abortions worldwide are putting women’s health at risk, a new study has said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) study suggests that global abortion rates are steady, at 28 per 1,000 women a year.

However, the proportion of the total carried out without trained clinical help rose from 44 percent in 1995 to 49 percent in 2008.

The Lancet, which carried the report, said the figures were “deeply disturbing”.

Unsafe abortion is one of the main contributors to maternal death worldwide, and refers to procedures outside hospitals, clinics and surgeries, or without qualified medical supervision.

Women are more vulnerable to dangerous infection or bleeding in these environments.

In developing countries, particularly those with more restrictive abortion laws, most abortions are unsafe, with 97 percent of abortions in Africa described this way.

To compile the figures, often a difficult task in countries where abortion is illegal, the researchers used surveys, official statistics and hospital records.

They concluded that while the abortion rate had fallen since 1995, that drop had now levelled off, and overall, the rise in world population meant that there were 2.2 million more abortions in 2008 compared with 2003.

In the developed world, the proportion of pregnancies ending in abortion fell from 36 percent in 1995 to 26 percent in 2008.

Countries with restrictive abortion laws did not have a corresponding decrease in abortion rate - in some cases, the reverse was true.

“Unsafe abortion is one of the five major contributors to maternal mortality, causing one in every seven or eight maternal deaths in 2008,” the BBC quoted Beverly Winikoff, from Gynuity, a New York organisation which pushes for access to safer abortion as writing in the Lancet.

“Yet, when abortion is provided with proper medical techniques and care, the risk of death is negligible and nearly 14 times lower than that of childbirth.

“The data continue to confirm what we have known for decades - that women who wish to terminate unwanted pregnancies will seek abortion at any cost, even if it is illegal or involves risk to their own lives,” he added.