The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 42 million pregnancies were voluntarily terminated, of which 20 million were unsafe (2003).
The rate of unsafe abortions is higher where abortion laws are restrictive. It is, however, important to note that while decriminalising abortions is a vital first step, that alone will not result in eliminating unsafe abortion.
In India, even though the law allows for abortion up to 20 weeks, many other factors contribute to high rates of unsafe abortions. Some of these issues will be highlighted through the course of this one week campaign. Addressing unsafe abortion needs to be an urgent public health as well as human rights imperative in India and elsewhere.
An accurate estimation of abortion is difficult, which is mainly due to the fact that induced abortion is stigmatized and women are reluctant to even report having had one. Unsafe abortions are particularly difficult to measure. The lack of reliable information poses a serious challenge to designing evidence-based programs to improve access to safe abortions.*
A recent article in a national daily quoted Union Health Secretary, Government of India said there are serious problems with India’s public health statistics. The Secretary also said the Health Management Information System (HMIS) is not effectively used.
Here’s a look at the grave risk women in India face because of unsafe abortions.
[*Elisabeth Ahman and Iqbal H. ShahGenerating National Unsafe Abortion Estimates: Challenges and Choices]