PARIS–A long-term fall in the global abortion rate has tapered off and the number of unsafe pregnancy terminations is rising worryingly, according to a report published by The Lancet on Thursday. Between 1995 and 2003, the number of abortions around the world for every 1,000 women aged between 15 and 44 fell from 35 to 29. But in 2008, the rate was almost unchanged, at 28 per 1,000, due to a surge in abortions in developing countries. The Lancet report also highlighted a dramatic increase in the proportion of unsafe abortions. This rose from 44 percent of the total in 1995 to nearly one in two — 49 percent — in 2008, inflicting a traumatic toll in death and injury.
“The declining abortion trend we had seen globally has stalled, and we are also seeing a growing proportion of abortions occurring in developing countries, where the procedure is often clandestine and unsafe,” said Gilda Sedgh of the Guttmacher Institute in New York. “This is cause for concern.” The U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) defines unsafe abortion as a pregnancy termination performed by an individual lacking the necessary skills, or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards or both. Around the world, unsafe abortions accounted for 220 deaths per 100,000 procedures in 2008 — 35 times the rate for legal abortions in the United States — and for nearly one in seven of all maternal deaths. Each year, around 8.5 million women in developing countries encounter abortion complications that are so serious they need medical care. In overall terms, there were 43.8 million abortions in 2008, up by 2.2 million from 2003, said the paper. Researchers attributed this to the continuing rise in the world’s population and to less use of contraception, especially in developing countries, which now account for more than three-quarters of all abortions.