A new report shows the abortion rate declined more in developed countries, where abortion is generally safe and legal, than in developing countries, where the procedure is largely illegal and unsafe, according to “Induced Abortion: Rates and Trends Worldwide,” a new report released by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO) published in the October 13, 2007 issue of The Lancet.

The number of induced abortions worldwide has declined from nearly 46 million to under 42 million between 1995 and 2003. Abortion rates fell most significantly in Eastern Europe, a trend that corresponds with substantially increased contraceptive use in the region.

The study also found that an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions occurred in 2003, 97% of these in developing regions. The prevalence of unsafe abortion remains high, with up to 39 unsafe abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in Eastern Africa and 33 per 1,000 in South America. By contrast, developed regions, where almost all countries allow abortions with few restrictions, had an average unsafe abortion rate of two per 1,000.

The report concluded that reducing the incidence of unsafe abortion would result in an immediate and substantial reduction of maternal mortality and improve maternal health.

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