Women seeking to terminate their pregnancies sometimes resort to unsafe methods, particularly when access to legal abortion is restricted. They may attempt to self-abort or rely on another person who does not have proper medical training or access to proper facilities. This has a tendency to lead to severe complications, such as incomplete abortion, sepsis, hemorrhage, and damage to internal organs.
Unsafe abortions are a major cause of injury and death among women worldwide. Although data are imprecise, it is estimated that approximately 20 million unsafe abortions are performed annually, with 97% taking place in developing countries. Unsafe abortions are believed to result in millions of injuries. Estimates of deaths vary according to methodology, and have ranged from 37,000 to 70,000 in the past decade;deaths from unsafe abortion account for around 13% of all maternal deaths.The World Health Organization believes that mortality has fallen since the 1990s. To reduce the number of unsafe abortions, public health organizations have generally advocated emphasizing the legalization of abortion, training of medical personnel, and ensuring access to reproductive-health services. However, the Dublin Declaration on Maternal Health, signed in 2012, notes that "the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women".
A major factor in whether abortions are performed safely or not is the legal standing of abortion. Countries with restrictive abortion laws have significantly higher rates of unsafe abortion (and similar overall abortion rates) compared to those where abortion is legal and available. For example, the 1996 legalization of abortion in South Africa had an immediate positive impact on the frequency of abortion-related complications, with abortion-related deaths dropping by more than 90%. In addition, a lack of access to effective contraception contributes to unsafe abortion. It has been estimated that the incidence of unsafe abortion could be reduced by up to 75% (from 20 million to 5 million annually) if modern family planning and maternal health services were readily available globally.Rates of such abortions may be difficult to measure because they can be reported variously as miscarriage, "induced miscarriage", "menstrual regulation", "mini-abortion", and "regulation of a delayed/suspended menstruation"
Forty percent of the world's women are able to access therapeutic and elective abortions within gestational limits, while an additional 35 percent have access to legal abortion if they meet certain physical, mental, or socioeconomic criteria. While maternal mortality seldom results from safe abortions, unsafe abortions result in 70,000 deaths and 5 million disabilities per year. Complications of unsafe abortion account for approximately an eighth of maternal mortalities worldwide, though this varies by region. Secondary infertility caused by an unsafe abortion affects an estimated 24 million women.The rate of unsafe abortions has increased from 44% to 49% between 1995 and 2008. Health education, access to family planning, and improvements in health care during and after abortion have been proposed to address this phenomenon.