New figures suggest 25% of pregnancies worldwide end in abortion

The rate of abortions in developed regions dropped significantly between 1990 and 2014

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World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters building in Geneva, Switzerland. Image: Raphael Satter / AP/Press Association Images

One in four pregnancies ends in abortion, according to new research by the World Health Organisation and the Guttmacher Institute.

The report suggests that 56 million induced abortions take place worldwide every year - a rate of around 35 per 1,000 women.

While the percentage of abortions in the developing world increased slightly from 21% in 1990-1994 to 24% in 2010-2014, it dropped from 39% to 28% in developed regions.

Dr Gilda Sedgh, lead author of the study, said, “high abortion rates are directly correlated to high levels of unmet contraceptive need.

"Our findings indicate that in many developing regions, women lack the contraceptive services they need and are unable to prevent pregnancies they do not want to have," she added.

Bela Ganatra, a scientist with the WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research, explained that “estimates for the proportion of abortions that are unsafe are under development, but it is likely that where access to safe abortion is limited, women may turn to clandestine procedures that are often unsafe".

The report's release comes as Ireland's human rights record has been criticised by the UN Human Rights Council.

They called on Ireland to comply with international standards on abortion by making it available to women in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities.