Why Unsafe Abortions Are Increasing

ITS NO longer news that there is an increase in violence everywhere all over the world and more than ever before, women and young girls have become victims of rape and consequently, unwanted pregnancy.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that of nearly 56m abortions that take place yearly all over the world, almost half of these are procured in unsafe manners.

The WHO study found that between 2010 and 2014, there were 55.7 million abortions every year and of them 17.1 million were unsafe.

Some of the reasons include:

  • The woman taking pills alone or was with a trained helper but using a method of abortion that is no longer considered best practice.
  • 8m abortions, categorized as “least safe” in the study, involved desperate and dangerous backstreet measures, from swallowing toxic substances to inserting wires to try to bring about a miscarriage.
  • 1: 4 abortions are safe in Africa, the rest are often unsafe and result in death.
  • Dangerous methods used to bring about an abortion especially in West and Central Africa

The new figures, from the WHO with the Guttmacher Institute, are published in the Lancet medical journal 



The study finds that there are fewer abortions in places where abortion is safest, such as in northern Europe and northern America where women can equally get contraception easily.

The authors explain that most countries in those two regions “have less restrictive laws on abortion, high contraceptive use, high economic development, high levels of gender equality, and well developed health infrastructures”.

Lead author Dr Bela Ganatra, from the WHO, told the Guardian, UK, their work showed “the persistence of inequalities by geography, by income, by levels of development … that’s the real tragedy that these findings point to.

“Safe abortion is a very safe procedure. It can be provided at primary healthcare level. It isn’t even necessary that it has to be a procedure. Now you can use tablets. There is nothing that requires this to be highly resourced.

“It is not science that is holding back the progress but barriers in terms of stigma and law.”

In Latin America, where many countries have a ban on abortion in nearly all circumstances, women have resorted to misoprostol, a tablet which they can access online, ideally taken with mifepristone as well. “It is a very safe method that women are taking into their own hands,” said Ganatra.

If they access the pills through a telemedicine service such as Women on Webwhich gives them information and support, the study classifies this as safe abortion, she said. But there are large numbers of women obtaining the pills online who do not have help, and those would be less safe.

The availability of the tablets is an improvement, said Ganatra. “At least it is moving away from the means that led to death. But at the same time, not dying is not enough.”

Deaths are highest in west and central Africa, at around 450 per 100,000 abortions, although the study authors warn that the mortality estimates are based on data from different time periods. They say women may die as a result of more serious complications because of the dangerous methods used to bring about an abortion – and their health services may then not have the skills or resources to treat them.



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