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Unsafe Abortion Effects: Dangers Associated with Unsafe Abortion


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Unsafe Abortion Effects: Dangers Associated with Unsafe Abortion

Key Points

  1. Abortion is a common medical procedure, and its safety relies on adherence to WHO-recommended methods, pregnancy stage, and the competence of the healthcare provider.
  2. Approximately 60% of unintended pregnancies result in induced abortions.
  3. About 45% of all abortions are categorized as unsafe, with 97% of these taking place in developing nations.
  4. Unsafe abortion is a preventable contributor to maternal mortality, causing physical and mental health issues, and imposing social and economic burdens.
  5. The lack of access to safe, timely, affordable, and respectful abortion care is a significant public health and human rights concern.
Unsafe Abortion Effects


  1. Globally, around 73 million induced abortions occur annually, with 61% of unintended pregnancies ending in induced abortion.
  2. WHO added comprehensive abortion care to its list of essential health services in 2020, highlighting its simplicity when managed appropriately.
  3. Comprehensive abortion care encompasses information, abortion procedures, and post-abortion care, focusing on induced abortion in this context.

The Extent of the Issue

  1. While safe abortion is achievable when recommended methods are followed, barriers often lead to unsafe abortion in cases of unintended pregnancy.
  2. Global estimates from 2010-2014 indicate that 45% of induced abortions are unsafe, with one-third considered highly unsafe, often performed by untrained individuals.
  3. Developing countries bear the brunt of unsafe abortions, with over 97% occurring there. Asia and Africa have the highest rates of unsafe abortions.

Unsafe Abortion Effects

  1. The lack of access to safe, affordable, and respectful abortion care, coupled with stigma, poses threats to women’s physical and mental health.
  2. This inaccessibility infringes on various human rights, including the right to life, the highest attainable standard of health, and the right to make choices about reproduction.
  3. Unsafe abortion contributes to maternal mortality, with developing regions experiencing a significantly higher death rate compared to developed regions.

Physical Risks Associated with Unsafe Abortion

  1. Unsafe abortion can result in complications such as incomplete abortion, hemorrhage, infection, uterine perforation, and damage to genital organs.
  2. Restrictive abortion regulations can add to the distress, stigma, and financial burden on women, potentially violating their rights.

Unsafe Abortion Effects: Economic Impact

  1. Complications from unsafe abortions cost developing country health systems $553 million annually, with households losing $922 million in income due to long-term disability.
  2. Greater access to modern contraception and safe abortion could lead to substantial monetary savings.

Expanding Quality Abortion Care

  1. Restricting abortion access doesn’t reduce abortion rates but increases the likelihood of unsafe abortions.
  2. Barriers include high costs, stigma, refusal by healthcare providers based on personal beliefs, and restrictive laws.
  3. An enabling environment for quality abortion care comprises respecting human rights, accessible information, and a well-functioning healthcare system.

Also read: Laws on Abortion in Ghana: Legal and Illegal

WHO’s Response

  1. WHO provides global guidance on contraception, abortion care, and related policies.
  2. It maintains the Global Abortion Policies Database, offering comprehensive information on abortion laws worldwide.
  3. WHO supports countries in adapting sexual and reproductive health guidelines and is developing a monitoring framework for quality abortion care.
  4. WHO collaborates with the HRP on research related to abortion care, regulation, stigma, and global unsafe abortion burden.


1. Bearak J, Popinchalk A, Ganatra B, Moller A-B, Tunçalp Ö, Beavin C et al. Unintended pregnancy and abortion by income, region, and the legal status of abortion: estimates from a comprehensive model for 1990–2019. Lancet Glob Health. 2020 Sep; 8(9):e1152-e1161. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30315-6. 

2. Ganatra B, Gerdts C, Rossier C, Johnson Jr B R, Tuncalp Ö, Assifi A et al. Global, regional, and subregional classification of abortions by safety, 2010–14: estimates from a Bayesian hierarchical model. The Lancet. 2017 Sep.

3. Say L, Chou D, Gemmill A, Tunçalp Ö, Moller AB, Daniels J et al. Global causes of maternal death: a WHO systematic analysis. Lancet Glob Health. 2014 Jun; 2(6):e323-33.

4. Singh S, Maddow-Zimet I. Facility-based treatment for medical complications resulting from unsafe pregnancy termination in the developing world, 2012: a review of evidence from 26 countries. BJOG 2015; published online Aug 19. DOI:10.1111/1471-0528.13552.

5. Coast E, Lattof SR, Meulen Rodgers YV, Moore B, Poss C. The microeconomics of abortion: A scoping review and analysis of the economic consequences for abortion care-seekers. PLoS One. 2021 Jun 9;16(6):e0252005. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0252005. PMID: 34106927; PMCID: PMC8189560.

6. Lattof SR, Coast E, Rodgers YVM, Moore B, Poss C. The mesoeconomics of abortion: A scoping review and analysis of the economic effects of abortion on health systems. PLoS One. 2020 Nov 4;15(11):e0237227. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0237227. PMID: 33147223; PMCID: PMC7641432.

7. Rodgers YVM, Coast E, Lattof SR, Poss C, Moore B. The macroeconomics of abortion: A scoping review and analysis of the costs and outcomes. PLoS One. 2021 May 6;16(5):e0250692. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250692. PMID: 33956826; PMCID: PMC8101771.

8. Vlassoff et al. Economic impact of unsafe abortion-related morbidity and mortality: evidence and estimation challenges. Brighton, Institute of Development Studies, 2008 (IDS Research Reports 59).


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