Disability, infertility, being shunned by your community and in the worst case even death: these are just some of the terrifying risks women expose themselves to when they have an unsafe abortion. Yet every year 21.6 million women, 99% of them in the developing world, are so desperate to end an unwanted pregnancy that they will quite literally risk their lives.
This Friday, 11 July, is World Population Day which was established by the UN to raise awareness of global population issues. So here it is: break down the barriers blocking women and girls from using contraception and we'll put an end to this needless loss of life, and make unsafe abortion a thing of the past.
As a mother myself, I feel very strongly that my children are part of me. To be able to absorb your babies back into your body rather than give birth to them in a place which is unsafe or where food and water is scarce would be the best option, if only it were possible in humans. So in that sense, isn't abortion the most maternal, selfless, protective act a mother can do?
Fewer women are dying in child birth, more girls are going to school, increased numbers of women are taking on roles in public office, there are more female entrepreneurs and less poverty. But significant challenges remain, and we are still a long way from achieving universal access to reproductive and sexual health and the realisation of reproductive rights for all.
There are many circumstances that affect whether a woman decides to end a pregnancy which we simply can't change. We can't conjure up the financial security she wants before she brings a child into the world, however important the campaign for secure maternity benefits and high quality, affordable childcare.
Research published this week by Marie Stopes shows that of 4,000 adults not trying for a baby, a third of women and almost half of the men had unprotected sex at least once in the past year. And here's the surprising part. Around eight out of 10 of those having unprotected sex said they believed it was "very unlikely" that it would result in pregnancy or they'd contract a sexually transmitted infection. When it comes to our sex lives, it seems we cross our fingers and hope for the best. Yet 185,000 women accessed abortion services last year, which suggests that for quite a lot of us, it does happen. Half a million STIs were diagnosed last year too, some of them incurable and life-threatening.
Efforts to persuade teenagers to have safe sex and to use health-screening services seem to be having a positive effect. Looks like that bloke who said "education, education, education" might have gotten something right after all. So, if you have a teenager, here's ten things you need to know before they become sexually active.
This year on World Population Day let us celebrate the unrivalled success that humankind has had in making the world its home, and in enabling civilisation to thrive... It's in all of our interests for us to achieve what we agreed in London a year ago. Let us make the pledges of the London Family Planning Summit a reality.