Almost one in every two abortions that occur worldwide is unsafe, according to the latest estimates reported by medical journal The Lancet. Of 5.57 crore abortions that occurred between 2010 to 2014, the researchers estimated that 3.6 crore abortions were safe (54.9%), while 1.71 crores were less safe and 80 lakhs were least safe, which means that 2.51 crore (45%) abortions each year were unsafe with 97% in developing countries.
According to IPAS Development Foundation, an NGO which works for making abortions safe in India, ten women die from unsafe abortions every day in India. Annually, close to 3,650 mothers die in India due to unsafe abortions. India sees 68 lakh pregnancy terminations, annually.
Only 21.8% abortions in low-income countries and hardly 42% abortions in lower-middle income countries (including India) are safe.
The rest are unsafe. It is ironic that in those countries where abortion is banned and used only to save woman’s life, 74.9% abortions are unsafe, while in those countries where abortions are allowed without restriction, only 12.6% abortions are unsafe.
The paper points out that, “The proportion of unsafe abortions was significantly higher in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws than in those with less restrictive laws.”
A major reason for this was the increasingly widespread use of drug misoprostol outside formal health systems, where abortion is legally restricted.
According to World Health Organization guidelines, a safe method is medical abortion, vacuum aspiration, or dilatation and evacuation, conducted by a trained person well within the appropriate duration during pregnancy, while a less safe one would be that which was done by an outdated method like sharp curettage or by administration of a say misoprostol but by an untrained individual.
The least safe methods are scarier and are provided by untrained individuals using dangerous methods, such as ingestion of caustic substances, insertion of foreign bodies, or use of traditional concoctions.
“The use of misoprostol outside of the formal health system, often without access to appropriate information and a trained health-care worker if needed does not represent a standard of care, but rather an absence of safe options,” says the study.