Unsafe abortion: an avoidable tragedy

Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2002 Apr;16(2):205-20. doi: 10.1053/beog.2002.0271.


An estimated 60 000-70 000 women die annually from complications of unsafe abortion and hundreds of thousands more suffer long-term consequences which include chronic pelvic pain and infertility. The reasons for the continuing high incidence of unwanted pregnancy leading to unsafe abortion include lack of access to, or misuse of and misinformation about, effective contraceptive methods, coerced sex which prohibits women from protecting themselves, and contraceptive failure. Unsafe abortion is closely associated with restrictive legal environments and administrative and policy barriers hampering access to existing services. Vacuum aspiration and medical methods combining mifepristone and a prostaglandin for early abortion are simple and safe. For second trimester abortion, the main choices are repeat doses of prostaglandin with or without prior mifepristone, and dilatation and evacuation by experienced providers. Strategies for preventing unsafe abortion include: upgrading providers' skills; further development of medical methods for pregnancy termination and their introduction into national programmes; improving the quality of contraceptive and abortion services; and improving partner communication.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents / administration & dosage
  • Abortion, Induced / adverse effects*
  • Abortion, Induced / methods
  • Abortion, Induced / standards
  • Abortion, Legal
  • Attitude to Health
  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data
  • Safety
  • Vacuum Curettage / methods


  • Abortifacient Agents