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Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 3 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information his Department holds on estimates by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities on the number of people who died as a result of illegal abortions in the last year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. (259039)

I have been asked to reply.

In 2007 the World Health Organisation (WHO) published estimates, on behalf of all UN agencies, of the incidence of unsafe abortion and associated deaths for the year 2003. This report which includes detailed information on the methodology used in calculating estimates can be found on the WHO website: abortion/

Given the clandestine nature of abortion in many settings and the difficulties in collecting data, it is likely that the true levels of unsafe abortion and related mortality are higher than estimated.

Worldwide an estimated 19-20 million unsafe abortions are estimated to occur each year. Millions of women and girls suffer complications following unsafe abortion and around 67,000 die as a result of these complications. Most of these abortions, complications and deaths could be prevented if people who wished to had access to family planning and if abortion services had been legally available and affordable everywhere. Progress to achieve Millennium Development Goal number five, Improve Maternal Health, cannot be made unless we are prepared to do something to reduce the death and disability caused by unsafe abortion.