By: Claire

Calling all abortion allies: it’s time to come get the data! In today’s blog, we invite you to familiarize yourself with key abortion statistics from around the world. We all know that anti-abortion advocates love to muddy the waters with pseudo-science, invented terminology, and vastly skewed statistics. But with solid research at your fingertips, you can help differentiate fact from fiction. Step up and read on!

How Common Is Abortion?

    • Abortion is common. 56 million abortions occur worldwide each year, which equates to about 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in abortion. 1

Who Has An Abortion?

    • Contrary to common stereotypes about women who seek abortion, the vast majority of women who obtain an abortion are married. Married women account for 73% of all global abortions. 1
    • Of any single age group, 20-24 year olds have the highest rate of abortion. The abortion rate for adolescents in developed regions is relatively low, and has been notably declining. (The same data for adolescents in developing regions was not available.) 2
    • In a US study, no racial or ethnic group made up the majority of those who obtained abortions. Thirty-nine percent were reported as white, 28% black, 25% Hispanic, 6% Asian or Pacific Islander, and 3% were reported as another race or ethnicity. 3
    • In the same US study, no one religious affiliation comprised the majority of those who obtained abortions. Thirty-eight percent had no religious affiliation, 24% were Catholic, 17% were mainline Protestant, 13% were evangelical Protestant and 8% reported another religion. 3

Why Do Women Have Abortions?

    • Unintended pregnancy, or getting pregnant when a woman did not want to be, is the most common reason for seeking abortion. 2
    • 214 million women of reproductive age in developing countries have an unmet need for contraception. Lack of access to contraception accounts for 84% of all unintended pregnancies in these regions. 4
    • 99 million unintended pregnancies are thought to occur each year. An estimated 56% of these end in abortion. 5

How Do Rates Of Abortion Compare Around The World?

    • Between 2010-14, the number of abortions in developed regions fell from 12 million to 7 million per year. In developing regions, however, the number rose from 38 million to 49 million. (It is important to keep in mind that this increase also reflects population growth.) 5
    • Data shows that restrictive abortion laws don’t actually lower a country’s rate of abortion. A side-by-side comparison of countries with some of the tightest abortion laws (including total bans) and countries with some of the most liberal abortion laws show almost identical national rates of abortion. 2
    • Despite recent setbacks, The Center For Reproductive Rights reports a global trend towards more liberal abortion laws, with over 30 countries expanding access to abortion care in the last 20 years. 6

What Is The Difference Between Safe And Unsafe Abortion?

  • Abortion is classified into three categories: safe, less safe, and least safe. A safe abortion is cared for by a trained provider and follows WHO-approved protocols. A less safe abortion meets only one of those criteria: either it is supervised by a trained provider using an unsafe method, or they use a safe method but without a trained provider. Less safe abortions meet neither of these criteria. 7
  • 25 million unsafe abortions occur each year, comprising 45% of all abortions. 31% of these unsafe abortions are classified as less safe and 14% are considered least safe. 8
  • In countries with highly restrictive abortion laws, only 1 in 4 abortions were safe. In countries with legal and accessible abortion, 9 in 10 abortions were safe. 8
  • 7 million women were treated for complications from unsafe abortion in developing countries, where abortion laws are most likely to be restrictive. In one year, these countries spent an estimated $232 million USD in providing post-abortion care. 22,000 women die from unsafe abortion each year. 1

What do you think- did you learn something new? Did any of these statistics shock or surprise you? Grounding our conversations about abortion can significantly help to reduce stigma and misinformation. We encourage you to share this data with your community- and of course, discuss!

If you are looking to learn more about safe medical abortion, you can visit our  website. You can also follow us on social media: we’re on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest .

Claire is a teacher, reproductive rights advocate, and the manager of