28, an worldwide research group reports in a new paper with senior author Leontine Alkema at the University of Massachusetts Amherst that out of the 55.7 million abortions that are estimated to have occurred each year between 2010 and 2014, almost half (45.1%) were unsafe.
Dr Bela Ganatra, lead author of the study and a scientist in the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research said "Increased efforts are needed, especially in developing regions, to ensure access to contraceptives and safe abortion".
The WHO study also showed that - shock horror - in countries where abortions are safe, fewer of them take place. The further eight million were performed under desperate circumstances - named "least safe" - and included toxic pills and inserting wires to force a miscarriage, among other methods.
All women and girls need access to sex education and effective contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancies and get safe abortion services if desired, Ganatra said.
Ganatra and co-researchers from the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute combed through government surveys and research studies conducted between 2010 and 2014 looking at who had abortions and under what circumstances those abortions were done.
The report distinguished between 17 million abortions each year that are "less safe", performed by professionals with outdated methods or by laypeople with recommended methods.
The least safe abortions were provided by untrained individuals using unsafe methods, including ingestion of caustic substances, insertion of foreign objects, or use of traditional concoctions like roots and herbs. Per CNN, unsafe abortions can lead to everything from hemorrhaging and infection to incomplete abortions and even death.
The study noted that restricting access to abortions does not reduce the number of abortions. It revealed that 25.1 million of the 55.7 million abortions carried out every year between 2010 and 2014 weren't safe for the women undergoing the procedure. "It is also important to note that women undergoing abortions in Africa had the highest risk of dying from a least safe abortion".
Unsurprisingly, 87.5% all abortions in developed countries were safe.
It's never been easier to have a safe abortion.
The researchers analyzed the data to determine how many abortions fit within the WHO's definition of "unsafe".
The new study provides estimates on safe and unsafe abortions globally.
And yet, "unsafe abortion is still a major problem in developing countries", they concluded. Nevertheless, this type of informal self-use of medication abortion that women have to resort to secretly does not meet WHO's safe abortion standards.
The study called for less restrictive laws on abortions as this will go a long way in saving women's lives and also encourage women who have to perform the act seek the help of trained officers. In developed countries, 12.5% of abortions were unsafe. Similarly, it can be extremely hard for doctors to distinguish between complications caused by miscarriage and induced abortion.
The findings highlight a strong link between abortion laws and safety.