About half the people in the world have the capacity to become pregnant. Yet there is still no contraceptive that is 100 percent effective. This means half of all people are potentially at risk of getting pregnant unintentionally. Abortion is not only one of the most common gynaecological procedures, but also the most effective method to terminate an unintended pregnancy. Access to this essential health service varies widely across the globe and is often influenced by socio-economic factors. Laws and regulations also significantly affect access to safe, legal and free abortion.
While in some countries abortion is punishable by law or is permitted only under certain conditions, in others it is legal either without restriction or within gestational limits. Criminalisation and stigmatisation of abortion seekers and providers threaten the availability of abortion services and could lead to the use of unsafe abortion methods. The taboo and stigma on abortion also results in poor data quality, so surveys on abortion are likely to be characterized by high levels of underreporting