Nearly half of abortions performed worldwide are unsafe, according to a World Health Organization study published this month in The Lancet. The study directly links illegal abortion to unsafe abortion, and to more deaths from abortion.
Abortion Safety Linked to Abortion’s Legal Status
The study data analyzed more than 57 million abortions performed each year in nations across the globe. The analysis classified 17.1 million (30.7%) of all abortions as “less safe,” and 8.0 million (14.4%) as “least safe.” This means that 45.1% of all abortions—25.1 million—are performed in unsafe circumstances.
The WHO defines unsafe abortion as an abortion performed by someone who lacks the necessary training, or in an environment not conducive to abortion safety. So both an abortion performed by a layperson and an abortion performed by a doctor in a non-medical setting would be classified as unsafe. Thus the overwhelming majority of illegal abortions are unsafe.
Previous research has found that banning abortion doesn’t cause it to disappear. It only results in more unsafe abortions. When El Salvador banned abortion, 11% of girls and women who sought an abortion died.
Illegal Abortions: A Leading Cause of Maternal Death
Anti-choice extremists spend plenty of time scaring women about abortion. Yet abortion remains a safe procedure when performed by a qualified provider in a safe setting. Women are less likely to face mental health issues following an abortion than following childbirth.
Botched abortions claim 47,000 lives each year. This makes illegal abortion a leading cause of maternal mortality, accounting for 13% of maternal deaths.
When women die from botched abortions, their fetuses die, too. Yet you won’t hear Republicans doing anything to stem the tide of abortion-related deaths. The anti-choice position has never been about life. Anti-choicers know that when abortion is illegal, more women die. That’s exactly the point: the death penalty for women who disobey.