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Contraception. 2014 Dec;90(6 Suppl):S39-48. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2014.04.004. Epub 2014 Apr 13.

Access to safe abortion: progress and challenges since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

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Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.
Reproductive Health, United Nations Population Fund, New York, USA.



The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) viewed access to safe abortion as imperative for public health.


Globally, the number of induced abortions (safe and unsafe) per 1000 women aged 15-44 years declined from 35 in 1995 to 28 in 2008. The number of deaths due to unsafe abortion declined from 69,000 in 1990 to 47,000 in 2008, as safe and effective methods of abortion, including manual vacuum aspiration and medical abortion, became more widely available. During the same period, there was a slight increase in the number of countries where abortion is permitted on request, and 70 countries made grounds for abortion more liberal.


Since ICPD, the decline in unsafe abortion was slower than that in safe abortion, and unsafe-abortion-related mortality continued to be a problem. Nearly all unsafe abortions and mortality occur in developing countries.


While more must be done to ensure universal access to safe, acceptable and affordable contraception to reduce the need for abortion, this need will always exist. Information on grounds for safe abortion should be made widely available for women to access services to which they are legally entitled to. As recommended by ICPD, quality postabortion care including contraception counseling and provision should be available to all women, regardless of the legal grounds for abortion. The paper provides the evidence on unsafe abortion, a reproductive health issue that is entirely preventable but has been largely neglected or tarnished by emotional and contentious debates.


Incidence; Laws; Levels; Mortality; Trends; Unsafe abortion

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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