Every year, worldwide, about 42 million women with unintended pregnancies choose abortion, and nearly half of these procedures, 20 million, are unsafe. Some 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%). Of the women who survive unsafe abortion, 5 million will suffer long-term health complications. Unsafe abortion is thus a pressing issue. Both of the primary methods for preventing unsafe abortion—less restrictive abortion laws and greater contraceptive use—face social, religious, and political obstacles, particularly in developing nations, where most unsafe abortions (97%) occur. Even where these obstacles are overcome, women and health care providers need to be educated about contraception and the availability of legal and safe abortion, and women need better access to safe abortion and postabortion services. Otherwise, desperate women, facing the financial burdens and social stigma of unintended pregnancy and believing they have no other option, will continue to risk their lives by undergoing unsafe abortions.
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