According to research from the World Health Organisation, almost half of all abortions done worldwide are unsafe.

The study found that 55.7 million abortions were carried out every year between 2010 and 2014. Of them, 17.1 million were not safe. This is because the woman was using a method of abortion that is no longer considered best practice, or was taking the pill alone.

As many as 8 million abortions were further categorised as ‘least safe’. They involved dangerous methods like swallowing toxic substances or using wires to try and induce abortion.

The highest levels of unsafe abortions were in Africa. Only one in four abortions are safe in Africa, the study found

In places where abortions are safe — such as northern Europe and northern America — there are the least number of abortions. According to the study, the countries in these areas “have less restrictive laws on abortion, high contraceptive use, high economic development, high levels of gender equality, and well developed health infrastructures”.

The study’s lead author said that science is not holding back the progress, but stigma and law are. In central and west Africa, there are around 450 deaths per 100,000 abortions — the highest rate of death due to abortion in the world

In India, abortion is only permitted for a woman who is less than 20 weeks pregnant. Exceptions to the 20-week ceiling are only made if the pregnancy is a threat to the mother and baby’s life. Courts have to give their approval for abortions beyond the time-frame.

Many gynaecologists have said that the 20-week time-frame is too narrow. That’s because some genetic abnormalities in the foetus may manifest only after this time period. The limit should be extended to 24 weeks, say many doctors.

The most jarring case in the recent months has been that of a 10-year-old rape survivor who was denied an abortion. She carried her baby to term, without even fully understanding that she was pregnant. Also, the girl’s family lost precious weeks in legal proceedings.

Hers is not the first case. Activists have been pushing for an amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.

Ten women in India die every day because of unsafe abortions. Unsafe abortion is the third leading cause of maternal deaths in the country. Also, 80 per cent of women in India don’t even know abortion is legal, or the rules pertaining to it. 

Also Read: Equal Abortion Rights for Single Women?

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