Reproductive Health Women's Health

Quarter of pregnancies globally may end in abortion

Written by Kyla Herrmannsen

Almost 90 percent of abortions occur in the developing world, pointing to an unmet need for contraception among the bulk of the world’s women, finds a new report.

About 56 million pregnancies are terminated each year (File photo)

Released at the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, the report uses abortion data from 184 countries to mathematically model abortion rates globally and by region. Co-authored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US reproductive health non-profit the Guttmacher Institute, the report found that while abortion rates have fallen significantly in the developed world between 1990 and 2014, these rates remain largely unchanged in the developing world.

The research estimates that about 56 million pregnancies are terminated each year with about 88 percent of these terminations occurring in the developing world.

According to Guttmacher Institute Principal Research Scientist Dr Gilda Sedgh, the findings mark a shift away from what have historically been higher abortion rates in developed countries.

[quote float= right]Whether or not abortion was legal in countries seemed to have no substantial impact on the number of abortions performed in the country

Whether or not abortion was legal in countries seemed to have no substantial impact on the number of abortions performed in the country, note researchers. However, the unmet contraceptive need remains high in countries in which abortions are illegal.

“A large part of these abortions, about 8 in 10, happen as a result of an unmet need for contraception, which means there is a potential for preventing these abortions,” said Dr Bela Ganatra of the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research.

Annually, 6.9 million women in developing countries are treated for complications from unsafe abortion and African women account for almost a quarter of such cases.

The study recommends increasing access to contraception as well as to safe abortion services coupled with comprehensive post-abortion care to reduce complications.

“Whether health systems are weak or strong, whether abortion is legal or not, whatever the contraceptive prevalence rate is, women need to have access to safe abortion care,” said Guttmacher Institute President and CEO Dr Ann Starrs.

The research was also published in the medical journal The Lancet earlier this month. – Health-e News.

An edited version of this story was also published on 


About the author

Kyla Herrmannsen

Kyla Herrmannsen is a television journalist with Health-e News. Follow her on Twitter @KylaHerrmannsen