A new study finds that although abortion rates around the world have leveled off, unsafe abortions across the globe continue to rise.
Researchers noted between 1995 and 2003 the abortion rate per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44 dropped from the 35 to 29 worldwide. But in 2008 the global abortion rate remained the same at about 28 per every 1,000 women.
Yet alarmingly, researchers say the proportion of abortions thought to be unsafe rose from 44 percent in 1995 to 49 percent in 2008. The study is published in The Lancet.
According to study authors, an unsafe abortion is defined by the World Health Organization as a procedure for terminating a pregnancy that is performed by an individual lacking the necessary training or performed in an environment that is not up to minimal medical standards. Researchers took their data from abortion surveys, official worldwide statistics, hospital records and other published reports.
"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 percent of all abortions took place in the developing world in 1995. That number increased to 86 percent 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.