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New WHO guidelines could reduce unsafe abortion death toll

Wednesday 29 July 2015 Marie Stopes International Safe abortion and post abortion care

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On Wednesday 29 July the World Health Organisation (WHO) released some of its most ground-breaking guidance yet in the field of safe abortion.

They are recommending nurses and midwives be allowed to perform surgical abortions and post-abortion care. Although WHO have released guidelines before this is the first time they have issued firm, evidence-based justifications for involving a wider range of health workers.

Among their many recommendations is support for:

  • surgical procedures for induced and incomplete abortion to be carried out by nurses and midwives;
  • medical abortion and post-abortion care beyond 12 weeks to be carried out by nurses and midwives in certain circumstances;
  • early medical abortion to be carried out by auxiliary nurses, ANMs and family welfare visitors;
  • information on safe abortion to be provided by a wide range of health workers including pharmacists, lay health workers and doctors of complementary medicines.

 We welcome this report, which has massive implications for women worldwide. Nearly22 million unsafe abortions take place every year, resulting in around 47,000 deaths and creating a huge burden on global efforts to improve maternal health.

One of the main contributors for this is a lack of trained health providers, particularly physicians. WHO estimates that the global deficit of skilled health-care professionals will reach 12.9 million by 2035.

Liz Sime, Marie Stopes International’s Director of International Operations said:

“At Marie Stopes International we have seen the enormous benefits of “task sharing” - the training of health workers, such as nurses and midwives, to complete tasks that would otherwise be carried out by doctors – in a large number of procedures, including implants, IUDs, tubal ligations and even obstetric surgery.

“Our experience demonstrates task sharing’s huge potential to rapidly expand access to healthcare, and give women more choice. As we approach the end of the Millennium Development Goals, progress on reducing maternal mortality is still the most off-track, but we are hopeful that these guidelines could mark a turning point, making it much more likely that lifesaving care will be available to women when they need it.”


For more information download the full report: ‘Health worker roles in providing safe abortion care and post-abortion contraception’

Want to know what unsafe abortion means? Watch our video

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