28 Sep 2017

25 million unsafe abortions last year

Gentle reminder from WHO: Dear world, banning abortion does not actually reduce the number abortions performed. It only makes the procedure less safe for the women.

Julia Sahlender
Julia Sahlender Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
25 million unsafe abortions last year - NewsMavens
A flyer on a pole in South Africa advertises quick and pain free abortions. Vgrigas/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Why this story matters:

Almost half of the 56 million abortions carried out each year are performed in unsafe or dangerous circumstances.

That's according to a World Health Organization report published on "International Safe Abortion Day" on September 28th.

What's striking about the findings in the report is that 97% of the 25 million unsafe procedures were performed in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The situation is especially precarious for women in the 62 countries where abortion is banned or only allowed in cases when the mother's life is in danger. What's also important to note is that the different methods vary a lot in their safety for women.

The WHO rates them from less safe to least safe. Less safe means that the procedure is done by a layperson or a professional but using outdated methods. Least safe methods include abortion by inserting instruments or swallowing caustic agents. According to the WHO, around 8 million abortions are performed this way every year!

The situation appears to be worst in the areas surrounding South Africa. 3 out of 4 of abortions done there are dangerous or unsafe.

The WHO demands better sexual education and information about contraception, abortion and family planning. They also state very clearly that banning abortion does not reduce the number of actual abortions. It only makes the procedure less safe for the women.

In Austria, the yearly number of abortions is relatively high compared to other European countries. While women here are mostly able to get a safe abortion performed by healthcare professionals, it is still something of a privilege. Neither abortion nor birth control is covered by health insurance. Healthcare professionals have been saying for a while that at least birth control should be. Maybe it's time the women who need them start echoing this sentiment more loudly.

Details from the story:

  • Around 56 million abortions worldwide every year
  • 25.5 million performed under less safe or unsafe circumstances
  • Mostly in countries where abortion is illegal
  • 97% of unsafe abortions happen in Asia, Latin America and Africa 
  • Generally safe conditions in Europe, safer in Western- than Eastern Europe
  • More education needed
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