Nearly a third of pregnancies in Europe end in abortion
Northern Europe and the U.S fare have a higher abortion rate than western Europe

Unwanted pregnancy: 17 out of 1,000 of child bearing age in the UK had an abortion in 2008

Unwanted pregnancy: 17 out of 1,000 of child bearing age in the UK had an abortion in 2008

Nearly one in three of pregnancies in Europe are terminated, according to an international group of scientists.

The startling statistic came to light as Dr Gilda Sedgh from the Guttmacher Institute in the U.S, revealed the data from the latest global abortion study.

According to the research, the long-term decline in the rates of abortion worldwide has stalled while
the proportion of unsafe terminations that put women's lives at
risk is rising.

Between 1995 and 2003, the abortion rate per 1,000 women of childbearing
age (15 to 44 years) worldwide dropped from 35 to 29. However, by 2008 the global abortion rate was virtually unchanged at 28.

In Europe, around 30 per cent of pregnancies end in abortion. However, the team said the rate was far higher in Eastern Europe.

In Western Europe there were 12 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008, while in Eastern Europe at the same time there were 43.

However, Northern Europe (which includes the UK and Scandinavia) fared worse than the western region with 17 abortions per 1,000 women, which is on par with North America.

The researchers, whose study was published in the Lancet medical journal, said a major cause for concern is the growing proportion of unsafe abortions occurring in developing countries.

'This plateau coincides with a slowdown in contraceptive uptake,' Dr Sedgh said.

'And without greater investment in quality family planning services, we can expect this trend to persist.'

Alarmingly, Dr Sedgh said, the proportion of abortions characterized as unsafe rose from 44 per cent in 1995 to 49 per cent in 2008.

Unsafe abortion is defined as a procedure for terminating a pregnancy carried out by someone who does not have the necessary skills, or in an environment that does not meet minimal medical standards.

Despite the decline in the abortion rate, there were 2.2 million more abortions in 2008, when 43.8 million were carried out, than in 2003 when there were 41.6 million. This is due to the increasing global population, the researchers said.

Of all the world's regions, Latin America has the highest rate, with 32 per 1,000 women in 2008. Africa and Asia follow close behind with rates of 29 and 28 per 1,000 women respectively.

Dr Sedgh said the study's findings showed strong correlations between abortion rates and access to effective contraceptives, and between abortion rates and the law.

'The abortion rates is clearly lower in places were abortion laws are more liberal,' she said, pointing to Africa and Latin America where rates are high.

Dr Sedgh said family planning services around the world appeared to be failing to keep up with rising demand for effective contraception driven by the desire for small families and better control over the timing of births.

'There are still 215 million women in developing countries who have an unmet need for contraceptives,' she said.