Unsafe Abortions and Morality

Utkarshinee Verma, University of Petroleum & Energy Studies



Unsafe abortions refer to terminations of unintended pregnancies by persons lacking the necessary skills, or in an environment lacking the minimum medical standards, or both. Globally, unsafe abortions account for 67,900 maternal deaths annually (13% of total maternal mortality) and contribute to significant morbidity among women, especially in under-resourced settings. The determinants of unsafe abortion include restrictive abortion legislation, lack of female empowerment, poor social support, inadequate contraceptive services and poor health-service infrastructure. Deaths from unsafe abortion are preventable by addressing the above determinants and by the provision of safe, accessible abortion care. This includes safe medical or surgical methods for termination of pregnancy and management of incomplete abortion by skilled personnel. The service must also include the provision of emergency medical or surgical care in women with severe abortion complications. Developing appropriate services at the primary level of care with a functioning referral system and the inclusion of post abortion contraceptive care with counselling are essential facets of abortion care. Unsafe abortion is one of the commonest causes of maternal mortality. Abortion-related maternal deaths are higher in countries with the most restrictive abortion laws. We assess whether maternal mortality varies within and between countries over time according to the flexibility of abortion laws (the number of reasons a woman can have an abortion).