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The state of global abortion data: an overview and call to action
  1. Anna Popinchalk,
  2. Cynthia Beavin,
  3. Jonathan Bearak
  1. Guttmacher Institute, New York, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Anna Popinchalk, Guttmacher Institute, New York, New York, USA; apopinchalk{at}

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Abortion, an experience shared by tens of millions of people around the world, is an important component of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care. Data on abortion incidence is needed to examine disparities in people’s ability to safely terminate a pregnancy. Abortion, however, is legally restricted in much of the world and often stigmatised regardless of legal status, making it challenging to measure and document. This contributes to disparities in understanding the SRH needs of people in different contexts around the world.

Due to the difficulty in measuring abortion, we developed model-based estimates following a clear and transparent protocol.1 These estimates utilised all global data on the number of abortions by country by year.2 While these are the most comprehensive estimates currently available, our data collection and research underscored that empirical data on abortion incidence are scarce and of variable quality. To address these gaps, there is an urgent need for investing in robust abortion data collection systems and research.

Data on abortion come from three main sources: official statistics, surveys of women, and scientific studies. However, the legal status and stigmatisation of abortion influences the quality of data in a country. These affect whether data are available and, if available, the degree to which they may be underreported. While threats to the accuracy of abortion data apply in some degree to all data sources and legal settings, some concerns are more relevant to specific sources.

Among high-income countries where abortion is broadly legal, official statistics on the annual number of abortions are the primary source of abortion data. Official statistics, however, may not capture all abortions due to different country reporting requirements, whether reporting is mandated in the public …

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  • Correction notice The funding statement has been updated since this article was published online.

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the conceptualisation and planning of this editorial. AP led the writing of the editorial with comments and edits from CB and JB. AP edited and revised all subsequent drafts.

  • Funding This study was funded by UK Aid from the UK Government. The funders of the study had no role in the data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or writing of this editorial. The corresponding author had full access to all the data in the study and had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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