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The access to abortion around the world

The last 50 years have been characterised by liberalising abortion laws, especially in the industrialised world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 73 million abortions are performed globally annually. It means approximately 39 abortions per 1,000 women worldwide, a rate that has remained roughly the same since 1990.

The safety of abortion procedures varies significantly between countries where abortion is legal and countries with restrictive abortion restrictions. Nearly 90% of abortions in countries with liberal abortion laws are considered safe compared to only 25% of abortions in countries where the medical procedure is banned. According to the WHO, approximately 5-13% of deaths of pregnant women worldwide are caused by complications after unsafe abortions, most of which occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Access to safe, high-quality abortion services is a prerequisite for women’s empowerment and bodily autonomy. Although abortion is not explicitly mentioned in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015 by all 193 UN member states, both SDG 3 (“Good health and quality of life”) and SDG 5 ( “Gender Equality”) aims to ensure “universal access to sexual and reproductive health services” as well as “universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

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