According to a new study as many as 68,000 women each year die as a result of botched abortion procedures and another 5 million develop infections and complications.
Most of these incidents occur in developing countries and the researchers say most are preventable.
The researchers from the Alan Guttmacher Institute examined abortion data from 13 countries, among them Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Uganda, Nigeria, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, Egypt and Pakistan and found a significant portion of maternal illness and deaths resulted from unsafe abortions.
The data collated from hospitals and abortion provider clinics shows that each year, about 19 million unsafe abortions were taking place annually and this figure includes legal as well as “backstreet” abortion clinics where the medical procedures and implements were often faulty.
A large number of women seeking to end unwanted pregnancies in the developing world often have no other alternative than suspect or faulty medical procedures that put them at risk of infection, complications and even death.
Lead researcher Dr. Susheela Singh says governments could reduce maternal deaths and the risks of complications if they ensured safe and legal abortion services were available and accessible to all women.
Dr. Singh says women in such countries usually chose to terminate pregnancies because they could not afford to look after the child and she suggests a “more immediately achievable goal” would be to educate women about effective contraception so that they are able to avoid unintended pregnancies.
The difference in the quality of procedures is highlighted by the almost rare incidence of complications - 5 to 7 per 1,000 of women in developed countries.
Of the nations studied, Uganda had the highest annual hospitalization rate at 16.4 per 1,000 women, followed by Egypt with 15.3.
The lowest was Bangladesh with 2.8.
The study was funded by the pro-abortion Hewlett Foundation and is published in The Lancet.
Revision date: July 7, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD