WHO has just released the second edition of ‘Safe Abortion’

Second edition of ‘Safe Abortion’

Since first publication of this guidance in 2003, a considerable amount of new data have been produced and published, relating to epidemiological, clinical, service delivery, legal and human rights aspects of providing safe abortion care. Therefore, preparation for this revision of the guidance included extensive literature review and updating of recommendations related to service delivery, legal and policy issues, and the conduct of new systematic reviews and updates of outdated systematic reviews to provide the evidence for recommendations related to clinical questions prioritized by an international panel of experts. The substantial revisions in this update reflect changes in methods of abortion and related care, service delivery as it applies to the availability and use of new methods, and application of human rights for policy-making and legislation related to abortion, among other topics. Recommendations in the 2003 guidance for which there was no new evidence remain unchanged and are also included in the new edition.


June 2012

This updated guidance provides policy-makers, programme managers and health-service providers with the latest evidence-based guidance on clinical care. It also includes information on how to establish and strengthen services, and outlines a human-rights-based approach to laws and policies on safe, comprehensive abortion care. This second edition of Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems reflects changes in methods of abortion and related care, service delivery as it applies to the availability and use of new methods, and information on human rights and how they relate to policy-making and legislation related to abortion. It also includes the latest data on the scale of the problem of unsafe abortion.



HRP* conducts and supports research to map and generate policy relevant evidence, tests interventions and their impact, and improves technologies for safe abortion and post-abortion care.

* UNDP/UNFPA/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP).



An estimated 21.6 million unsafe abortions took place worldwide in 2008, almost all in developing countries. These unsafe abortions are carried out by untrained persons under poor hygiene conditions. Deaths due to unsafe abortion remain close to 13% of all maternal deaths.



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