17/08/2014 15:19 BST | Updated 17/10/2014 06:59 BST

The Truth About 'Unsafe' Abortion

Maybe the truth's just too much for people. That's what I think sometimes, when the pain and anger subsides. There are times when the truth about "unsafe" abortion is too much for me too. Often it keeps me up at night.

Like the time we had to help a terrified young schoolgirl who took a chokorboma to solve her problem. Someone gave it to her because that was the way they did abortions there but she could have had no idea what the reality would be. Made from a glass coke bottle and filled with god only knows what, the chokorboma literally exploded within her, rupturing her insides and burning her inside out. Her body was left unrecognisable.

I have never seen anything like it. It was horrifying. Heart-wrenching. Screaming and screaming, the 15-year-old girl was carried into our clinic, shaking uncontrollably and rigid with pain. I can still see her face even now. I will never forget it.

She was one of the lucky ones I try and tell myself. A worried neighbour had at least brought her to us, and we were able to save her life, but there was little we could do to heal her. I knew she would never be the same again; never be able to have children or enjoy intimacy again.The poor girl had been broken. Physically and mentally scarred, she was going to have to live with the consequences of that for the rest of her life.

There it is. The truth; the reality of "unsafe" abortion, that innocuous word that is apparently so easy to ignore.

Can you imagine willingly putting yourself at risk like that? Being so desperate to end your pregnancy that you will quite literally risk your life? Every year 21.6 million women are that desperate - 99% of them are in the developing world. Thousands of them die and millions more are left seriously injured like this poor girl from Ghana.

And the worst part of it is that we've done that to these women. We've failed them by not getting them contraception to avoid pregnancy in the first place, by stigmatising abortion and burying it underground, and by not getting them the medical care they need when it goes so horribly wrong.

Abortion is an uncomfortable issue for most people. I get that. It will never be legal everywhere. Again, I get it. But we have to face facts here. Legal or not - and by extension safe or not - when backed into that corner, a woman will do anything she needs to and we have to stop ignoring that.

It's time to make a change. Through our campaign, Make Women Matter, Marie Stopes International is pushing to end the damage caused by unsafe abortion.

There are just 500 days left to achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals. Established to drive global development and end poverty, the goal on maternal health is lagging behind and remains the most off-track. As world leaders debate their progress and what should take their place we are calling on them to honour the promise to make contraception available to every woman; to improve access to safe abortion where legal and to make sure that even if it is not legally available in a country, lifesaving aftercare always is.

Let's make a stand for women together and put an end to unsafe abortion. Join the campaign and sign our petition today.