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Worldwide abortion rates 'stall'

Abortion rates around the world have "stalled" after a long period of decline, a study has shown.

The same research also reveals that the proportion of unsafe procedures has risen.

Between 1995 and 2003, the global number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age dropped from 35 to 29.

By 2008, the rate was 28 - virtually unchanged in five years. From 1995 to 2008 the proportion of abortions classified as unsafe rose from 44% to 49%, scientists reported in The Lancet medical journal.

The research, led by Dr Gilda Sedgh from the Guttmacher Institute in New York, found that in 1995, 78% of all abortions took place in the developing world.

Despite the declining rate of abortions, the number of procedures carried out rose from 41.6 million in 2003 to 43.8 million in 2008 due to the increasing global population.

After 2003, the number of abortions per year fell by 600,000 in the developed world but rose by 2.8 million in developing countries.

The authors, whose findings are based on national surveys, official statistics and hospital records, wrote: "The substantial decline in the abortion rate observed earlier has stalled, and the proportion of all abortions that are unsafe has increased. Restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates."

Dr Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet said: "These latest figures are deeply disturbing. The progress made in the 1990s is now in reverse. Promoting and implementing policies to reduce the number of abortions is now an urgent priority for all countries and for global health agencies, such as WHO.

"Condemning, stigmatising, and criminalising abortion are cruel and failed strategies. It's time for a public health approach that emphasises reducing harm - and that means more liberal abortion laws."

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