Forthcoming WHO safe abortion guidance ‘a major step forward’

Friday, May 25, 2012

On May 23, His Excellency Mr. Roderick van Schreven, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Dr. Mike Mbizvo, World Health Organization (WHO) Director of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research (RHR) including the Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP), held a luncheon to celebrate the 40th anniversary of HRP and to underscore the crucial role for development of sexual and reproductive health and rights. During the event, WHO provided a first look at the much anticipated  2nd edition of Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems—a guideline that aims to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes and increase access to reproductive health through improved quality of care.

The new safe abortion guidance, which will be released publicly in the coming weeks, provides a framework for health providers and policymakers to improve service delivery and legal environments to protect women’s health and rights worldwide.

“The new guidance provides reliable clinical information concerning evidence-based, safe abortion care. It should be in the hands of every service provider,” said Dr. Anibal Faundes, Chair of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) Working Group on the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion, after attending the luncheon.

Agreeing with Dr. Faundes, Elly Leemhuis, Senior Adviser for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands, who was also in attendance, said: “The new guidance is a major step forward, affirming the need for women to have access to safe abortion as a matter of human rights.”   

Despite progress in ensuring universal sexual and reproductive health and rights in recent years, unmet need for contraception and unsafe abortion—particularly for rural, poor women and girls—continue to take their toll. Unsafe abortion causes nearly 47,000 maternal deaths every year, almost all of which take place in developing countries. In addition, roughly 5 million women suffer from disabilities due to complications resulting from unsafe abortion.