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Restrictive abortion laws result in 25 million unsafe abortions a year worldwide

A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report, published in The Lancet, showed that between 2010 and 2014 25 million unsafe abortions were performed worldwide each year. The overwhelming majority of these abortions occurred in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Humanists UK has said that the study, in highlighting the link between countries maintaining strict prohibitive laws and the number of unsafe abortions performed, shows the need for reform.  

It was found that in countries where abortion is completely prohibited or only permitted when a woman’s life is a risk, 75% of abortions are unsafe. Conversely, in permissive jurisdictions 90% of abortions are performed safety. The study found no link between the number of abortions performed and the level of restriction in law.

The study recommended that unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions could be prevented by countries making supportive policies and financial commitments to provide comprehensive sexuality education, making available a wide range of contraceptive methods as well as access to safe, legal abortion.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘The findings of this WHO study could not be starker. Restrictive abortion laws are putting the lives of millions of women at risk from haemorrhage, injury, and infection as a result of a medical procedure which can be administered safely. Fifty years ago the dangers associated with unsafe abortions were removed for women in Britain by the passing of the Abortion Act, which made abortion legally accessible. Laws such as this do not result in more abortions, just safer abortions.

‘We call upon the countries that still ban abortion, including Northern Ireland, to place the safety of the pregnant woman as the primary consideration in reforming abortion legislation.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on or 0781 55 89 636.

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on abortion:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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