New WHO guidelines on abortion care just released!

10th May 2022

Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) released new, comprehensive guidelines on abortion care that bring together recommendations on clinical practice, health service delivery, and legal and policy interventions to support quality abortion care. The new abortion guidelines reflect the state of the evidence and recommend self-managed abortion as one of a range of safe, effective options. They also recognize non-clinical community providers as recommended providers of medication abortion care.

Finally, they recommend against laws and other regulations that prohibit abortion based on gestational age limits, which lead thousands of pregnant people to seek abortion cross-border in Europe, threatening their reproductive rights and deepening existing social and gender inequalities, as our study shows.

The reviewed evidence demonstrated that gestational age limits delayed access to abortion, especially among women seeking abortions at later gestational ages, women close to the gestational age limit and those living in areas with limited access to clinics. Gestational age limits have been found to be associated with increased rates of maternal mortality and poor health outcomes.

The studies also showed that where women requested an abortion and were denied care due to gestational age this could result in the unwanted continuation of pregnancy, especially among women with cognitive impairments or those who presented at 20 weeks’ gestation or later.

This outcome can be viewed as incompatible with the requirement in international human rights law to make abortion available when carrying a pregnancy to term would cause the woman substantial pain or suffering, regardless of pregnancy viability (see chapter 2.2.3 in the guidelines for more details).

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    Europe Abortion Access Project Euroe Research Council Universitad de Barcelona

    This project has received funding from the European Reseach Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme BAR2LEGAB-680004