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Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2004 Jul;86(1):79-84.

Safe abortion: WHO technical and policy guidance.

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  • 1Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine, and Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto, 84 Queen's Park, Toronto, ON, Canada.


In 2003, the World Health Organization published its well referenced handbook Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems to address the estimated almost 20 million induced abortions each year that are unsafe, imposing a burden of approximately 67 thousand deaths annually. It is a global injustice that 95% of unsafe abortions occur in developing countries. The focus of guidance is on abortion procedures that are lawful within the countries in which they occur, noting that in almost all countries, the law permits abortion to save a woman's life. The guidance treats unsafe abortion as a public health challenge, and responds to the problem through strategies concerning improved clinical care for women undergoing procedures, and the appropriate placement of necessary services. Legal and policy considerations are explored, and annexes present guidance to further reading, international consensus documents on safe abortion, and on manual vacuum aspiration and post-abortion contraception.

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