Nearly 70,000 women, almost half of them in Asia, die from unsafe abortions each year despite government pledges made a decade ago to improve human rights and reproductive health, researchers said Wednesday.

A report presented at a three-day meeting to gauge progress made since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo showed only small gains have been made to prevent maternal deaths from abortions.

“Unsafe abortion poses a serious threat to the health and lives of women all around the world, not just in Asia,” Elizabeth Maguire, president of the Ipas group which works to protect women from unsafe abortions, told Reuters.

Unsafe abortion was recognized as a major public health concern at the ICPD when 179 members of the United Nations set goals to improve women’s reproductive health, education and rights and to increase family planning services to reduce unsafe abortions by 2015.

Governments also agreed, where abortion was considered legal, to make sure it was safe. But the Ipas research showed that in some regions unsafe abortions account for 50 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths of women.

“We have figures that 40 women every minute undergo an unsafe abortion and 200 are dying every day. The real message is that these deaths and disabilities from unsafe abortion are preventable,” Maguire said.

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