About 70,000 women die every year and many more suffer harm as a result of unsafe abortions in countries with restrictive laws on ending a pregnancy, according to a report.
The total number of abortions across the globe has fallen, the influential Guttmacher Institute says, but that drop relates only to legal abortions and is mostly the result of changes in eastern Europe.
There were 41.6m terminations worldwide in 2003, compared with 45.5m in 1995. But in 2003, says the report, 19.7m of these were unsafe, clandestine abortions. The numbers of those have hardly changed from 1995, when there were 19.9m.
Almost all the unsafe abortions were in less developed countries with restrictive abortion laws.
"Virtually all abortions in Africa and in Latin America and the Caribbean were unsafe," says the report. In Asia, safe procedures outnumbered unsafe because of the large number of legal abortions in China. Most of those in Europe and almost all in North America were safe, Telegraph informs.
A key reason for that drop, the new report said, was that the portion of married women using contraception increased from 54 percent in 1990 to 63 percent in 2003 as availability increased and social mores changed. Guttmacher's researchers said contraceptive use had increased in every major region, but still lagged badly in Africa — used by only 28 percent of married women there, compared with at least 68 percent in other major regions.
The report notes that abortions worldwide are declining even as more countries liberalize their abortion laws. Since 1997, it said, only three countries — Poland, Nicaragua and El Salvador — substantially increased restrictions on abortion, while laws were eased significantly in 19 countries and regions, including Cambodia, Nepal and Mexico City, The Associated Press reports.
"It is significant and tragic that while the overall rate of abortion is on the decline, unsafe abortion has not declined," said Sharon Camp, president of the Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank which studies sexual and reproductive health.
"Legal restrictions do not stop abortion from happening, they just make the procedure dangerous. Too many women are maimed or killed each year because they lack legal abortion access," she told a news conference in London, Reuters informs.
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