The World Health Organization (WHO) this week released new guidelines on abortion care in what the organisation said is a bid to protect the health of women and girls and help prevent over 25 million unsafe abortions that currently occur each year.
“Being able to obtain safe abortion is a crucial part of health care,” said Craig Lissner, acting Director for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at WHO.
“Nearly every death and injury that results from unsafe abortion is entirely preventable. That’s why we recommend women and girls can access abortion and family planning services when they need them,” Lissner stated.
According to the WHO, based on the latest scientific evidence, the consolidated guidelines bring together over 50 recommendations spanning clinical practice, health service delivery, and legal and policy interventions to support quality abortion care.
The world body says when abortion is carried out using a method it recommended, appropriate to the duration of the pregnancy and assisted by someone with the necessary information or skills, it is a simple and extremely safe procedure.
But a WHO release stated that tragically, however, only around half of all abortions take place under such conditions, with unsafe abortions causing around 39 000 deaths every year and resulting in millions more women hospitalized with complications.
The release said most of these deaths are concentrated in lower-income countries – with over 60% in Africa and 30% in Asia – and among those living in the most vulnerable situations.
The WHO guideline includes recommendations on ‘many simple primary care level interventions that improve the quality of abortion care provided to women and girls’.
They include task sharing by a wider range of health workers; ensuring access to medical abortion pills, which mean more women can obtain safe abortion services, and making sure that accurate information on care is available to all those who need it.
For the first time, the guidelines also include recommendations for use where appropriate of telemedicine, which helped support access to abortion and family planning services during the COVID-19 pandemic.