Annual abortions down worldwide, but may remain unsafe

December 1, 2007

The estimated number of induced abortions worldwide fell between 1995 and 2003; however, almost half of abortions worldwide in 2003 could be classified a "unsafe."

The estimated number of induced abortions worldwide fell between 1995 and 2003; however, almost half of abortions worldwide in 2003 could be classified as "unsafe," according to research published in the Oct. 13 issue of The Lancet.

Gilda Sedgh, ScD, of the Guttmacher Institute in New York City, with colleagues collected data on induced abortion rates from national surveys and published sources, correcting for underreporting as necessary. "Safe" abortions were defined as those meeting legal requirements in countries where abortion is legally permitted. "Unsafe" abortions were defined as those performed by unskilled personnel or in a substandard environment.

The authors found that the estimated annual number of abortions fell worldwide from 46 million in 1995 to 42 million in 2003. The region with the lowest abortion rate was western Europe (12 per 1,000 women). The rate in North America was 21 per 1,000 women. Forty-eight percent of abortions worldwide were deemed unsafe, and almost all of these were in developing countries.

Sedgh G, Henshaw S, Singh S, et al. Induced abortion: estimated rates and trends worldwide. Lancet. 2007;370:1338-1345.