When Abortion is not Safe

by Michael_Koger

Though pregnancy termination is a safe procedure in many parts of the globe, there are thousands of deaths from it every year.

Abortion is legal in many developed countries such as the United States, and its performance there entails very little risk to the mother. In countries where the procedure is legal, it is generally not difficult for a woman to have it. In these regions of the world, the patient will visit a hospital or medical center, and necessary resources are available to conduct the abortion [1].

Unsafe Abortion

In many developing countries, pregnancy termination may be illegal.  This prompts women to seek the procedure outside of a hospital, and this places her at risk for medical complications.  She may suffer from hemorrhage, peritonitis, sepsis, or trauma to the cervix, vagina, uterus, or abdominal organs.  Health care providers who perform these “backstreet” abortions may not have adequate training or experience to properly terminate the pregnancy [1].

Illegal abortions may involve violent blows to the woman’s abdomen, and this may lead to rupture of the uterus.  Some providers may give her medication or other substances to abort the pregnancy, and she may become seriously ill or die from these methods [1].  Moreover, women who experience medical complications from an unsafe abortion may decide not to visit a hospital for further management because it is illegal to have the abortion.

These patients fear legal consequences should they disclose that they have undergone the abortion.  There are also social and cultural beliefs in communities everywhere which discourage women from this type of medical care [1].  Specifically, community and churches may stigmatize them, and social exclusion is the result.  It becomes an issue that the woman’s behavior is below the standards of womanhood.

Pregnancy termination, therefore, becomes a matter of concern over sexuality, the meaning of motherhood, and womanhood as it is not merely a healthcare issue.  The negative treatment that these women experience has to do, in many instances, with the belief that a woman’s duties are procreation and motherhood.

Nearly all unsafe abortions take place in developing countries, and the maternal death and complication rates from these procedures are much higher than developed countries where the procedure is legal.  There are approximately 22 million unsafe abortions each year across the globe, and 47,000 women die from them.  Worldwide, more than 200 million women become pregnant each year [1].

Unintended Pregnancy

The occurrence of unintended pregnancy is lower in areas of the world where contraception is available than in locations where birth control is not in use.  Abortion rates rise when women have unintended pregnancies.  When abortion laws are less restrictive, the morbidity and mortality rates from that procedure dramatically decline [1]. 

In other words, access to medical care to perform pregnancy termination or to manage it after it has already taken place will afford a better clinical outcome for the mother.  Restrictive abortion laws—in which women do not have reasonable access to the procedure—lead to adverse medical outcomes [1].


The occurrence of unsafe pregnancy termination is a global public health problem which leads to much morbidity and mortality in these women.  It is possible, however, to prevent the complications and deaths which result from those procedures.


  1. World Health Organization.  (2012).  Safe abortion:  technical and policy guidance for health systems.  Second edition.  Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  2. The photo shows a pregnant woman who is preparing a meal.  Reprinted with permission from Centers for Disease Control/James Gathany.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 04/19/2015, Michael_Koger
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Veronica on 12/06/2015

Very interesting comments.

It is never an easy choice and of course the comment that while abortion is safe for a mother it isn't safe for the baby is quite true.

The links to breast cancer and abortion maternal death are under reported because there is so much money to be made from abortion.

frankbeswick on 04/19/2015

Bear in mind that there is no such thing as an act without consequences. The Jewish rabbis state that all acts bear their appropriate fruit for good or evil. I have drawn on these this source to say that there are consequences to every abortion. Some of these consequences will be in the inner life of the participants. When you abort you perpetrate a horrifying act. Its memory becomes part of your mental life, your personal history. You can suffer by remembering; and even worse, suffer by denial and the consequent life in bad faith.

It is the characteristic of a person that he/she exerts a claim on us, so when we kill someone, even out of necessity, the claim remains and we feel the weight of the violation. My grandfather knew this only too well. In the First World War he killed a German in hand to hand combat, and used to see the man's face in his nightmares. The horror of killing a person would not go away. Can you stroll out of an abortion clinic and live happily ever after?

cmoneyspinner on 04/18/2015

Abortion is never SAFE for the baby. Sometimes for the mother it's a danger. But in abortion, the baby is ALWAYS the one in danger, endangered ,etc. No matter how we slice and dice, cut and scrape, in the end, it's an innocent victim who has to give up their life.

Think about that please. If you're going to consider the ethical, moral and spiritual implications, in addition to the physical, mental, medical and legal aspects.

ologsinquito on 10/05/2013

We are still hearing stories of legalized abortions not being too safe either, and the recent horrifying case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell is one example that comes to mind. Abortion has also been found to later increase the mother's risk of breast cancer. It often causes severe depression later. Life is precious.

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