One in four pregnancies end in abortion every year, according to research from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Guttmacher Institute.
Around 56 million induced abortions take place each year, according to the report in Lancet. This is higher than previously thought, although rates have dropped in many richer countries.
The annual number of abortions has risen from around 50 million a year between 1990-1994 to 56 million a year between 2010-2014, according to scientists. This rise is mostly seen in the developing world where populations have grown rapidly. In wealthier countries abortion levels have dropped from 24 to 14 per 1,000 women of reproductive age.
Nola Leach, chief executive of the Christian charity CARE, called the figure "absolutely tragic".
She told Christian Today: "While the number of abortions in more developed countries has come down the global figure is disturbingly high and a reminder of the international challenge we face in standing up for the unborn.
"All too often, abortion is seen and sold as the only solution for mothers who are encouraged to view an unplanned pregnancy as a problem that needs solving. But we should be making sure mothers are fully aware that there are different options out there, other than termination."
Leach added that abortions can bring trauma and feelings of guilt and called for a focus on pastoral care for mothers.
The report called for a re-think in how to offer contraceptive services.
Dr Bela Ganatra, from the WHO, said: "The high rates of abortion seen in our study provide further evidence of the need to improve and expand access to effective contraceptive services.
"Investing in modern contraceptive methods would be far less costly to women and to society than having unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions."
The researchers also pointed out that abortion rates did not differ according to whether abortion was legal or not. They argued banning abortion does not limit the number of terminations but instead leads people find unsafe illegal abortions.
Leach concluded: "Sadly society today neglects to attribute any objective worth to the unborn baby in the womb.
"We should always remember that an unborn baby in the womb is not just an undeveloped collection of cells but a real person with inherent and intrinsic dignity."