Sexual and reproductive health

WHO launches new guideline to help health-care workers ensure safe medical abortion care

9 January 2019: WHO has today launched new guidance, Medical management of abortion. These new guidelines provide healthcare workers with evidence-based recommendations to help ensure high-quality healthcare for all pregnant individuals who seek a medical abortion.

Women and girls continue to be at risk of unsafe abortion

28 September 2017: According to a new study published in The Lancet, by authors from the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research, including HRP, and the Guttmacher Institute, an estimated 25 million (or 45%), of all abortions that occurred every year worldwide between 2010 to 2014 were unsafe.

Increasing transparency of abortion laws and policies: launch of a new online database

23 June 2017: WHO and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs have launched a new, open-access database of laws, policies and health standards on abortion in countries worldwide. The database aims to promote greater transparency of abortion laws and policies, as well as to improve countries’ accountability for the protection of women and girls’ health and human rights.

Abortion rates drop in more developed regions but fail to improve in developing regions*

Mozambique: after inserting an implant into a client's arm, a health worker in reiterates to her the advantages and disadvantages of different family planning methods.
Arturo Sanabria/Photoshare

12 May 2016: New estimates, published today in the Lancet, indicate that the induced abortion rate has declined significantly in more developed countries between 1990 and 2014, but not in developing countries. A new study, undertaken by the Guttmacher Institute and WHO, has estimated that, worldwide, during the period 2010-2014, there were 35 abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44. This translates to over 56 million abortions per year.

Interactive website improves access to WHO recommendations on providing safe abortion care

Photo of a computer screen displaying the interactive website.
The new website presents the guideline’s information in interactive tables

15 January 2016 -- A new website has been launched to help make WHO recommendations on health worker roles in providing safe abortion and post-abortion care more accessible. The interactive resource is based on WHO’s guideline, Health worker roles in providing safe abortion care and post-abortion contraception, and is designed to help people working across the health sector access the recommendations more easily.

Understanding unsafe abortion

image of makeshift and unsanitary traditional doctor consulting space
Photo: R. Johnson, WHO
98% of unsafe abortions take place in developing countries

The World Health Organization defines unsafe abortion as a procedure for terminating a pregnancy performed by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment not in conformity with minimal medical standards, or both. Although widely used, this definition is inconsistently interpreted. In this new article published in WHO’s Bulletin we discuss its correct interpretation and operationalization.

The UNDP/UNICEF/UNFPA/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (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.

Test your knowledge on safe abortion


Broadening health worker roles in safe abortion care & post-abortion contraception