Unsafe abortion in 2008: global and regional levels and trends

Reprod Health Matters. 2010 Nov;18(36):90-101. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(10)36537-2.


Despite the availability of safe and highly effective methods of abortion, unsafe abortions continue to be widespread, nearly all in developing countries. The latest estimates from the World Health Organization put the figure at 21.6 million unsafe abortions worldwide in 2008, up from 19.7 million in 2003, a rise due almost entirely to the increasing number of women of reproductive age globally. No substantial decline was found in the unsafe abortion rate globally or by major region; the unsafe abortion rate of 14 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years globally remained the same from 2003 to 2008. Modest reductions in unsafe abortion rates were found in 2008 as compared to 2003 in most sub-regions, however. The upward changes in rates in Middle Africa, Western Asia and Central America were due to better coverage and more reliable information in 2008 than in 2003. Eastern and Middle Africa showed the highest rates of unsafe abortion among all sub-regions. Some 47,000 women per year are estimated to lose their lives from the complications of unsafe abortion, almost all of which could have been prevented through better access to sexuality education, fertility awareness, contraception and especially safe abortion services.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / adverse effects
  • Abortion, Induced / mortality
  • Abortion, Induced / standards*
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Mortality / trends
  • Pregnancy
  • World Health Organization
  • Young Adult