Injury to a child due to illegal abortion is viewed as criminal assault. Illegal induced abortion may be performed by a qualified or unqualified person or by the woman herself. Most illegal abortions are carried out by unqualified persons using inefficient methods. Traditional healers, chemists or shopkeepers induce abortions with chemicals, detergents and unsterile sharp objects. Mortality from illegal abortions is high and the incidence of post-abortion infection and other physical damage is significantly greater than that of legally-performed abortions. The most common complications are massive haemorrhaging, perforation of the uterus, laceration, sepsis, tetanus renal failure. These serious conditions require the immediate and skilled medical attention which is often unavailable in poor countries. Those who survive frequently suffer ill-health; in some cases, the damage is permanent or death results.
The need for legal, induced abortions has been expressed differently by the various countries whose laws allow for such action. The most liberal, as for example in Cyprus, permit pregnancy terminations on grounds of demonstrated socio-economic and psychological conditions detrimental to full-term pregnancy and birth, as well as in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape. The more conservative countries consider only medical risk to the mother; however this may include her psychological health and sanity. Rape and grossly malformed foetuses are also considered adequate reasons for legal abortions in some conservative jurisdictions.
Despite provision for legal abortion, in some countries (such as France) where the medical profession may come from a background of strong, professed religious belief, doctors may refuse to perform pregnancy terminations. In other countries also, Church opposition, even where abortion may be technically legal, creates considerable obstacles to making abortion available, for example via publicly supported clinics. Thus the situation, globally, shows that where abortion has been legalized the justification and criteria vary considerably; and in some countries, though criteria may be met and the law considers them legal, abortions may, in practice, be very difficult to obtain. The fact that many countries have not yet even considered the issues involved also indicates the cruel circumstances that unwanted or defective pregnancies impose on women.
30 to 50 percent of the 500,000 maternal deaths that occur annually are due to unsafe abortion and it is estimated that 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries. It is estimated that illegal abortions worldwide kill a woman every three minutes, whilst for every one that dies 30-40 others suffer severe health problems. In Latin America, illegal abortion is now the number one killer of women between the ages of 15 and 39.