Globally, 47,000 deaths occur each year as a result of unsafe abortion, accounting for 13 percent of all maternal mortality.
Today, activists are calling attention to the need for safe, legal abortion in all countries, urging scrutiny of governments that restrict or forbid abortion.
The Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion campaign site includes a public statement that reads in part:
[P]regnancy-related deaths and unsafe abortion remain a major public health problem in large parts of the world. Most countries that allow women to die in childbirth also allow them to die and suffer from unsafe abortions. Why? Because they do not value women’s health and lives, including when they are pregnant. This is what makes women’s right to safe abortion a public health and human rights issue.
The number of maternal deaths has declined substantially globally between 1990 and 2008, while the number of deaths from unsafe abortion has fallen to 47,000 per year in 2008. However, the proportion of all maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion has not been reduced but remained at 13% of all maternal deaths in that period. In 2008, of the 43.8 million induced abortions globally, 21.6 million were unsafe, 98% of them in developing countries. (Sedgh et al, Lancet 2012) And an estimated 5 million of those 21.6 million women each year had to be hospitalised for treatment of complications of unsafe abortion, (Singh et al, Lancet 2007) putting a heavy burden on scarce hospital resources (up to 50% of hospital maternity beds in some countries). [...]
Adolescent girls suffer the most from complications of unsafe abortion and have the highest unmet need for contraception. More than 40% (8.7 million) of the 21.2 million unsafe abortions in developing countries in 2008 were in young women aged 15–24 years. Of these, 3.2 million were adolescents aged 15–19 years, and 5.5 million were aged 20–24 years. (Shah, RHM May 2012)
The website also explains the clinical, legal and social health determinants that characterize what is meant by “unsafe abortion”:
- Illegal or legally restricted
- Dangerous method
- Untrained/unskilled provider
- Unsafe conditions
- Self-induced without help or information
- Incorrect usage (of pills)
- Little or no access to treatment for complications
- Stigma and fear and isolation
- Violence, rejection (by family, school, work) and murder, including of doctors providing abortion care
- Threat of prosecution
- Prosecution and imprisonment
Actions taking place around the globe are listed here by country. A letter has been written by young feminists to the United Nations, urging the UN to commit to women’s reproductive rights as human rights in upcoming negotiations. You can sign on to the letter via this petition site.