Abortion across the world

In 2014, about 56 millions abortions were performed accross the world. Slightly under half were high-risk abortions.

Around one pregnancy in five across the world is terminated by an elective abortion. From 2010 to 2014, 35 abortions were performed per 1000 women aged 15 to 44. Abortion statistics are difficult to establish, especially because many abortions are performed illegally. 

The right to abortion is still limited in more than two-thirds of all countries

In most countries, abortion is only legal under exceptional circumstances, for example when the woman’s life is in danger or when the physical or mental health of the mother or child is under threat. In 2011, only 58 countries (less than a third of all countries) authorize abortions for personal reasons, and in most cases there is a legal time limit (in France, for example, the deadline is 12 weeks of pregnancy).
In 2016, abortion was still illegal in 68 countries.

Nearly one in two abortions is high risk

According to the latest estimates, 25 million unsafe abortions were performed across the world in 2014, most in developing countries. Almost all were illegal, and done under conditions representing a threat to the health of the patient (unqualified personnel, inadequate hygiene, too late in the pregnancy). Every year, 4.7% to 13.2% of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortions.
However, though the number of high-risk abortions is rising, abortion-related mortality is falling, particularly in Latin America, with the development of illegal but medical abortions.


In certain Asian countries where there is a strong preference for sons, women also abort if the foetus is a girl.

Sources: World Health Organization (WHS) and Guttmacher Institute, « World Abortion Policies », Population Division, United Nations,"Unsafe abortion still frequent across the world but less often fatal", Clémentine Rossier, Population & Societies, n°513, July-August 2014.

(Last update September 2018)