Partner Spotlight: Unsafe Abortion—The Preventable Public Health Crisis

By: Sharon L. Camp, President and CEO of The Guttmacher Institute

An estimated 40 million abortions took place in the developing world last year. Most of these procedures were clandestine and unsafe, taking a terrible toll on women’s lives. Every year, 47,000 women die from unsafe abortion and millions more are injured—some seriously and permanently. These deaths and injuries are almost entirely preventable.

To help ensure that the global debate about unsafe abortion and its consequences is informed by facts, the Guttmacher Institute has created a short video presenting key evidence on abortion worldwide.

The video is also available in Spanish, French on YouTube and also via Dropbox.


The video makes several key points:

  • Women have abortions in all parts of the world and they have them for similar reasons—including being unable or too poor to care for a child or additional children, not being in a stable relationship, and needing to finish their education.
  • The frequency of abortion has much less to do with its legal status than with levels of unintended pregnancy, the root cause of most abortions. Unintended pregnancy rates have everything to do with whether a woman has access to quality family planning services.
  • The best way to reduce the need for abortion is not by denying women access to safe and legal procedures, but by giving them the power to control their fertility and prevent unintended pregnancy. Today, 222 million women in the developing world want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern contraceptive.

Reducing the incidence of unsafe abortion—both by preventing unintended pregnancy and making safe abortion services accessible—is a public health imperative. As policymakers, advocates, the media and others come together at Women Deliver, it’s essential that meeting the need for contraception and the provision of safe abortion services be at the top of the agenda.

It is the basic right of every woman to be able to make her own childbearing decisions without having to put her health or her life at risk.

Additional resources:

Video transcript
Facts on Induced Abortion Worldwide
Access to Safe Abortion in the Developing World: Saving Lives While Advancing Rights
Costs and Benefits of Investing in Contraceptive Services in the Developing World
Interactive media kit: Worldwide Abortion: Legality, Incidence and Safety
Induced Abortion: Incidence and Trends Worldwide from 1995 to 2008
Guttmacher’s YouTube channel with additional videos on abortion and contraception 

The Guttmacher Institute is a sponsor of the Women Deliver 2013 conference. To learn more about the upcoming event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 28-30 May, visit:!

Entry Comments

  1. I have to say that I agree with this article. Unsafe abortions are a global health problem. Unfortunately, keeping abortions illegal is not going to eliminate a woman’s access to an abortion. When women feel helpless due to an unplanned pregnancy they will do whatever it takes to solve their problem. Sometimes this means going to an unsafe abortion clinic. I believe that if women around the world had easier access to family planning measures such as birth control pills, contraceptives, and information on how to avoid pregnancy through the use of the rhythm method, the rate of women dying from unsafe abortions would decrease dramatically. Making something illegal does not make people stop doing something, education on the risks associated with illegal substances and procedures does.

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