Unsafe abortions kill 8 women in India everyday

Stigma, access, & economic factors drive unsafe abortions in India


April 16, 2023

/ By / New Delhi

Unsafe abortions kill 8 women in India everyday

Unsafe abortions kill 8 women in India everyday

Despite a very liberal law governing abortions in India, for many women access to safe and legal abortion services remains out of reach. Rural areas often lack public healthcare facilities providing these services. Moreover, poverty and social stigma can prevent women from seeking help. As a result, many women are forced to turn to untrained providers or attempt self-induced abortions, putting their health and lives at risk.

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Unsafe abortions are a significant public health issue in India, with nearly eight women succumbing to unsafe abortion-related causes each day, according to the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of the World Population Report 2022. Unsafe abortions rank as the third major cause of maternal deaths in India.

The WHO has stated that countries with stricter abortion laws have a maternal mortality rate that is three times higher, 223 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to countries with less restrictive laws which on an average record 77 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. 

Factors contributing to unsafe abortions in India

The lack of adequate access to safe and legal abortion services is one of the main drivers of unsafe abortions. In rural parts of India, where there are few or no public healthcare facilities that provide abortion services, women may resort to untrained providers or self-induced abortions, both of which are unsafe. Economic factors also play a role, as poverty can prevent women from accessing safe and legal abortion services. Societal stigma against having a child out of wedlock may also be a driving factor for unmarried couples seeking unsafe abortions.

Complications associated with unsafe abortions are especially prevalent among teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19, with lower educational and financial levels being significant factors contributing to unintended pregnancies, particularly among young females. According to USAID, unsafe abortion is one of the five major causes of maternal mortality and accounts for 13 pc of maternal deaths globally.

Addressing unsafe abortions in rural India

According to some studies, India accounts for 6.5 million abortions, with two-thirds of abortions ending in unsafe settings causing nearly 8 deaths every day. The 2017 National Family and Health Survey indicated that unsafe abortion is more common in rural regions of India compared to urban areas. Poor households, particularly in rural settings, are more prone to such practices, with unmet needs for family planning being a significant factor contributing to unsafe abortions. 

“Women who belong to marginalised groups, including sex workers, tribal women, single women, HIV-positive women, and young women, encounter greater challenges in accessing safe and legal abortion services due to lack of accessibility and social stigma,” Kajal Jain, programme coordinator at the Pune-based Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal (MASUM), tells Media India Group.

Role of NGOs in addressing ansafe abortions

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Masum are also working to increase awareness of the importance of safe abortion and to provide women with information and resources to access these services. 

“Women in big metropolitan cities can be discreet about their identity while going for abortion, but women in rural areas have to fear the social stigma surrounding abortion and sex outside of wedlock. Besides this, sex education and knowledge related to abortions are low among rural women, so in most situations, they do not know what to do,” Jain adds.

Root causes of unsafe abortions in India

Work needs to be done to address the underlying factors driving women to seek out unsafe procedures. This includes addressing stigma, improving access to healthcare facilities and trained providers, and addressing economic factors that may make it difficult for women to access safe and legal abortion services.

“While this is a significant step forward, more work is needed to ensure that all women in India have access to safe and legal abortion services. It is essential to prioritise the reproductive health and rights of women in India to safeguard their well-being and that of future generations” Jain tells Media India Group.



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