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Safe abortion and post-abortion care

Providing access to safe abortion and post-abortion care is at the core of our mission.

Tens of thousands of women die every year as a result of complications related to unsafe abortion

Counterfeit drugs, quack doctors, tea-leaves, knitting needles, even small bottles filled with improvised explosives inserted into the uterus.

These are just some of the things that girls and women turn to – 25 million times a year – in a desperate attempt to end their unintended pregnancies. Some live to tell their stories. Many others do not.


Unsafe abortion is a major contributor to maternal mortality.

Today, unsafe abortions account for up to 11% of global maternal deaths. 

The problem is particularly acute in the developing world. Across the regions where we work an estimated five women die every hour as a result of unsafe abortion, and around the world around eight million more women suffer serious complications.

And these numbers are likely to rise, following the re-introduction of the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule - a Republican policy that blocks US Government funding to non-US organisations that perform abortion with their own funding.

Not only will this policy negatively impact women’s health and their opportunities for the future, it will also be counter-productive - by blocking funding to the world’s largest providers of modern contraception, women’s ability to prevent unplanned pregnancy will be reduced, and the number of women undergoing an abortion will actually increase.

The scale of the issue

women die from unsafe abortion
women suffer serious complications
women resort to unsafe abortion

How we're addressing it

We work in countries all over the world to provide access to safe abortion and post-abortion care for women and girls who have decided to end a pregnancy.

We’re working hard to eliminate unsafe abortion, and to make safe procedures as accessible and convenient in as many locations as possible.

Alongside that, we provide post-abortion care, to make sure immediate life-saving medical care is available to women suffering complications from unsafe terminations. And we are committed to offering safe abortions in all the countries where we’re legally able to do so.

We advocate for safe abortion because we know it saves women’s lives. So we're helping to shape abortion policy in several countries we operate in.

Our policy work

By giving women access to safe abortion, our services make it significantly less likely that women will risk their health by undergoing an unsafe procedure.

We won’t shy away from delivering services like safe abortion. We need to confront taboos and defy stigma, so that more women can end their pregnancies without putting their lives at risk.

Why safe abortion matters

Ensuring universal access to safe abortion saves lives. But it also has broader benefits.

By helping a woman have more of a say over when or whether she has a child, we can help her take greater control over where her life is heading. So she can choose to pursue an education, spend more time with the children she already has, or look after her own health that much better.

At a wider level, we know that increasing access to safe abortion also improves the health of families, enhances education rates and boosts people’s economic prospects. So, while our services are saving and transforming lives in a very personal sense, they’re also making a difference at a community and society level.

The services we offer

Medical abortion

Medical abortion is where a woman takes tablets to end her pregnancy.

It’s a safe, non-invasive alternative to surgical abortion, which we can offer to women outside of a healthcare environment. It’s a way for us to open up abortions to women in different locations, and it means women have more control over when and where their treatment takes place.

Most of the safe abortion services we provide are medical abortion and medical post-abortion care services. Expanding access to medical abortion, in recent years, has been and continues to be, one of the most important tools in combating the harm of unsafe abortion.

Surgical abortion

Surgical abortion is a safe and effective procedure performed by a doctor.

The surgical procedures we offer tend to be used by clients in the later stages of pregnancy. As with all our abortion procedures, we discuss all the options available to our clients so they can make an informed , personal choice.

Post-abortion care and family planning

If a woman comes to us for an abortion, the procedure itself is just one part of the service we provide.

If a woman comes to us for an abortion, the procedure itself is just one part of the service we provide.

Through post-abortion care, we offer immediate life-saving medical care for women suffering complications from an unsafe termination.

Many women seeking an abortion aren't using effective contraception. So, as well as emotional support, we let them know about the different contraceptive options available – and support each woman to choose the right option for her, depending on her fertility intentions and the type of procedure she has had.

Naomi Mwansa – young client

I was scared to go to prison. I was worried about the number of years I would spend there. I was really scared.

Sister Laeticia Dlovo

Since joining Marie Stopes South Africa in 1998, Sister Laeticia - known as Ma Letty - has seen the country liberalise its abortion law and make tremendous improvements in maternal health.

Jane Vika Alfayo – young client

I didn’t want to give birth. I just felt like I wanted to abort my pregnancy, as I was in school, I was young, and I didn’t know how to take care of a baby.

Dina Appiah

Without Marie Stopes I don’t know where I would be, maybe I’d be dead.

Elizabeth Pappoe – Marie Stopes Ghana team member

I enjoy maternal and reproductive health a lot, as women are special.

Christiana Kposowa

Christiana planned on going to university but, with two small babies already, falling pregnant a third time was the last thing she needed.

Our commitment

We will do all we can to reduce the harm caused by unsafe abortion.

We do it by increasing access to safe abortion services, wherever it is legal for us to do so; and by giving women access to the contraception that should reduce the need for them to resort to an unsafe abortion in the first place.

Our aim is that, by 2020, 90% of all women accessing safe abortion and post-abortion care through our centres receive a modern method of contraception from us as well.

Reaching women wherever they are

We don’t want location to get in the way of women accessing the care and information they need. So, in recent years, we have expanded access to safe abortion, and made sure more women can access our services in places and ways that best meet their needs.


Women can access a safe abortion in one of our centres.


Social franchising

In some countries, women can now end a pregnancy safely through our global social franchising network.

Social Franchising

Social marketing

We train local pharmacists and community health workers to provide medical abortions as well.

Social Marketing

More in this section

Every woman should have the right to choose when and whether to have children.

The Global Gag Rule means millions will be left without that choice.