HealthDay News — An estimated 25.1 million unsafe abortions were performed worldwide each year between 2010 and 2014, with the vast majority occurring in developing countries, according to a study published online in The Lancet.

Bela Ganatra, MD, from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Switzerland, and colleagues used data on abortion methods, providers, and settings as well as factors affecting safety to estimate the global, regional, and subregional distributions of abortion by safety categories. Abortions were classified as safe or unsafe based on WHO definitions.

The researchers estimated that 54.9% of the 55.7 million abortions that occurred worldwide each year between 2010 and 2014 were safe, 30.7% were less safe, and 14.4 % were least safe. Each year between 2010 and 2014, 25.1 million abortions (45.1%) were unsafe, with 97% of these in developing countries.

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Developing countries had a significantly higher proportion of unsafe abortions than developed countries (49.5% vs 12.5%). Compared with countries with less restrictive abortion laws, those with highly restrictive abortion laws had a significantly higher proportion of unsafe abortions.

“The paucity of empirical data is a limitation of these findings,” the authors write. “Improved in-country data for health services and innovative research to address these gaps are needed to improve future estimates.”

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Ganatra B, Gerdts C, Rossier C, et al. Global, regional, and subregional classification of abortions by safety, 2010-2014: estimates from a Bayesian hierarchical model [published online September 27, 2017]. Lancet. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31794-4