The total number of worldwide abortions decreased between 1995 and 2008 to a rate of about 28 per 1,000 women, a new study has found, but nearly half of worldwide abortions in 2008 were deemed to be "unsafe." The study, which was published in The Lancet, defined "unsafe" any abortion performed by an untrained person in an environment that does not meet minimal medical standards.
"These latest figures are deeply disturbing," noted Dr. Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, "The progress made in the 1990s is now in reverse. Promoting and implementing policies to reduce the number of abortions is now an urgent priority for all countries and for global health agencies, such as WHO. Condemning, stigmatizing, and criminalizing abortion are cruel and failed strategies. It's time for a public health approach that emphasizes reducing harm – and that means more liberal abortion laws, " Horton continued.
The study also found about 78% of all abortions took place in the developing world in 1995. That number increased to 86% by 2008, even though the number of women of childbearing age in those countries rose more slowly.
And even though the abortion rate has declined over the years, the study found there were 2.2 million more abortions in 2008 (43.8 million) compared with 2003 (41.6 million).
Study authors believe the changes in abortion rates between 1995 and 2008 coincide with a lack of modern contraceptive methods available to women worldwide. They also noted family planning services don't seem to be keeping up with the increasing demand by people across the globe who want to have smaller families and therefore better control of the timing of births.