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WHO study: More than 25 million unsafe abortions per year

WHO study: More than 25 million unsafe abortions per year


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Millions of abortions take place under unsafe conditions
The reasons for an abortion can be extremely varied, whereby the lack of options for later childcare often plays a role, particularly in poorer countries. Abortions are often performed in these countries under conditions that pose a significant health risk to women. Around 25 million such unsafe abortions are performed worldwide each year, according to a recent study.

The joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Guttmacher Institute shows that millions of unsafe abortions are performed every year - the majority (97 percent) of them in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Improved access to contraceptives could contribute to a significant reduction in unwanted pregnancies and thus to a reduction in unsafe abortions, the researchers report. The results of their study were published in the specialist magazine "The Lancet".

More than 55 million abortions a year
For the current study, abortions were evaluated worldwide, which took place in 2010 and 2011. Using the WHO definition, the scientists differentiated between safe and unsafe abortions, with unsafe abortions being further divided into "less safe" and "least safe" methods. Of the 55.7 million abortions per year, 30.6 million (55 percent) were rated as “safe”, 17.1 million (31 percent) were “less safe” and eight million (14 percent) were “the least for sure".

Differentiate between safe and unsafe pregnancies
The safe abortion methods comply with the WHO guidelines and standards. Abortions are carried out by well-trained health workers using a method recommended by the WHO, which is based on the length of pregnancy. According to the researchers, the risk of serious complications or death in these abortions remains negligible. Abortions are classified as “less safe” if they are carried out by a trained provider but with an unsafe or outdated method. Or the other way around by an inexperienced person, but with a safe method like Misoprostol (medication that can be used for abortion).

Many deaths from unsafe abortion
In the "least safe" abortions, the intervention was carried out by inexperienced people using dangerous methods such as the introduction of foreign bodies or the use of herbal compositions, the scientists report. The deaths in unsafe abortion are not uncommon. The experts also explain that complications such as incomplete abortion, infertility, hemorrhage (bleeding), uterine injuries and infections are increasing.

Uncertain abortions, especially in developing countries
Overall, the study found 25.1 million (45 percent) unsafe abortions per year, of which 24.3 million were performed in developing countries. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that there are generally more abortions here. On the other hand, the proportion of unsafe abortions in these countries is significantly higher than in the modern industrialized nations. Furthermore, the situation in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, in which abortions are partially completely prohibited, is extremely problematic, the scientists report.

Contraceptives and safe abortion methods are crucial
"If women and girls cannot access effective contraception and safe abortion services, there are serious consequences for their own health and that of their families," the researchers warned in a press release regarding the study results. Far too many women suffer and continue to die from the consequences of unsafe abortions, the experts continued. In developing countries in particular, there is an urgent need for “increased efforts to ensure access to contraception and safe abortion,” emphasizes Dr. Bela Ganatra from the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research.

Restrictive laws with adverse effects
In their study, the scientists also examined the factors that lead women to unsafe abortion. In addition to the financial costs, the limited availability of safe abortion, the lack of training for health service providers and social attitudes towards abortion are of importance. In countries where abortion is prohibited, only one in four abortions was considered safe, while in countries where abortion is legal for broader reasons, almost nine out of ten abortions were safe, the researchers report.

Low abortion rates in North America and Western Europe
"In high-income countries in North America and Western and Northern Europe, where abortion is largely legal and health systems are strong, the incidence of unsafe abortions is the lowest worldwide," emphasizes Dr. Gilda Sedgh from the Guttmacher Institute. In addition, the lowest abortion rate is also evident in some of these countries. "Like many other medical procedures, abortion is very safe when done in accordance with the recommended medical guidelines, and that's important to consider," said Dr. Sedgh. (fp)

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