The latest World Health Organization data estimate that the total number of unsafe abortions globally has increased to 21.6 million in 2008. There is increasing recognition by the international community of the importance of the contribution of unsafe abortion to maternal mortality. However, the barriers to delivery of safe abortion services are many. In 68 countries, home to 26% of the world's population, abortion is prohibited altogether or only permitted to save a woman's life. Even in countries with more liberal abortion legal frameworks, additional social, economic, and health systems barriers and the stigma surrounding abortion prevent adequate access to safe abortion services and postabortion care. While much has been achieved to reduce the barriers to comprehensive abortion care, much remains to be done. Only through the concerted action of public, private, and civil society partners can we ensure that women have access to services that are safe, affordable, confidential, and stigma free.
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