WHO issues new guidelines on abortion to help deliver lifesaving care |

Craig Lissner, acting director of sexual and reproductive health and research at the United Nations health agency, said during Wednesday’s launch that “it’s possible that safe abortions are an important part of care. health care”.

“Nearly all deaths and injuries from unsafe abortion are preventable,” he said.

“That’s why we recommend that women and girls have access to abortion and family planning when they need it.”

More than 50 suggestions

To keep women and girls safe, WHO made more than 50 recommendations related to clinical practice, health service delivery, legal and policy interventions to support quality abortion care.

The UN agency said the medical procedure was “simple and extremely safe” when performed according to the WHO-recommended method.

But worldwide, only about half of abortions take place safely, causing about 39,000 deaths a year and sending millions of women to the hospital for complications.

According to WHO, most of these deaths are concentrated in lower-income countries, with more than 60% in Africa and 30% in Asia – and they are impacting the most vulnerable.

The new guidelines include recommendations for a variety of simple interventions at the primary care level to improve the quality of abortion care provided.

These include sharing the duties of more healthcare workers; ensure access to medical abortion pills – meaning more women can receive safe abortion services – and ensure that everyone has accurate information about care.

For the first time, the guidelines also include telemedicine best practices, helping to support access to abortion and family planning services in many countries, in COVID-19 pandemic.

Safer Access

Along with clinical and service delivery recommendations, the guidelines also recommend removing medically unnecessary policy barriers to safe abortion, such as criminalization, time mandatory waiting period; require that consent be given by other family members, or organizations; and limits on when an abortion can be performed during pregnancy.

Such barriers can lead to serious delays in access to treatment and put women and girls at risk of unsafe abortion, stigma and health complications. increased disruption to their education and ability to work.

Abortion is still criminalized

While most countries allow abortion under specific circumstances, about 20 countries do not provide any legal basis for abortion.

More than three-quarters of all countries have legal penalties for abortion, which can include lengthy prison sentences or hefty fines for those who have or assist with the procedure.

Dr Bela Ganatra, Head of WHO’s Unsafe Abortion Unit, said: “It is important that abortions are medically safe.

“But that alone is not enough. As with any other health service, abortion care should respect the decisions and needs of women and girls, ensure that they are treated fairly and are not discriminated against or judged. No one should be exposed to abuse or harm such as being reported to the police or imprisoned because they sought or provided abortion care. “

Driving underground

Evidence that restricts access to abortion no decrease number of abortions taking place. In fact, the restrictions are more likely to drive women and girls towards unsafe procedures.

In the most abortion-restricted countries, only 1 in 4 abortions are safe, compared with a positive safety record of almost 9 in 10 in countries where the procedure is widely legal.

“The evidence is clear – if you want to prevent unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, you need to provide women and girls with a comprehensive package of sex education, information and services. accurate family planning and access to quality abortion care,” added Dr. Ganatra.

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