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Bull World Health Organ. 2000;78(5):580-92.

Making abortions safe: a matter of good public health policy and practice.


Globally, abortion mortality accounts for at least 13% of all maternal mortality. Unsafe abortion procedures, untrained abortion providers, restrictive abortion laws and high mortality and morbidity from abortion tend to occur together. Preventing mortality and morbidity from abortion in countries where these remain high is a matter of good public health policy and medical practice, and constitutes an important part of safe motherhood initiatives. This article examines the changes in policy and health service provision required to make abortions safe. It is based on a wide-ranging review of published and unpublished sources. In order to be effective, public health measures must take into account the reasons why women have abortions, the kind of abortion services required and at what stages of pregnancy, the types of abortion service providers needed, and training, cost and counselling issues. The transition from unsafe to safe abortions demands the following: changes at national policy level; abortion training for service providers and the provision of services at the appropriate primary level health service delivery points; and ensuring that women access these services instead of those of untrained providers. Public awareness that abortion services are available is a crucial element of this transition, particularly among adolescent and single women, who tend to have less access to reproductive health services generally.

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