WHO asks to lower thresholds for abortion


European Union


In almost all countries, abortion is still subject of political debate. Photo AFP, Federico Parra

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released new guidelines for abortion policy. The organisation asks for lowering the threshold for the termination. Most boundaries have just only effect: that the number of unsafe abortions is growing.

The WHO has published that in a statement on International Women’s Day. The UN organisation sees abortion as part of women’s health rights.

The organisation says the new guidelines on abortion care are based “on the latest scientific evidence”. The number of unsafe abortions in the world is still 25 million, half of all abortions in the world. The aim is to lower that number.

As long as the safety rules are followed, abortion is “a simple and safe health intervention”. But because of unsafe abortions, 39,000 mothers are dying each year.

“Unnecessary barriers”

For that reason, the WHO pleads for “removing unnecessary policy barriers” around abortion. From the press statement, it is not completely clear whether the limitation of 12, 18 or 24 weeks is seen as unnecessary. All European countries limit the termination to a specific week in the pregnancy.

Apart from that, many countries know other thresholds. In Norway, future mothers have to speak with a committee in certain circumstances to ensure that they are not forced to have an abortion. In Germany, there is a comparable regulation. In the Netherlands, there always was a reflection period of five days. The parliament decided to skip that limitation a few weeks ago.

The statement only speaks about “limits on when during pregnancy an abortion can take place”. The idea is that all these limits are “unnecessary” and should disappear because they “can lead to critical delays in accessing treatment and put women and girls at greater risk of unsafe abortion, stigmatisation and health complications”, the WHO says. “Evidence shows that restricting access to abortions does not reduce the number of abortions that take place. In fact, restrictions are more likely to drive women and girls toward unsafe procedures. In countries where abortion is most restricted, only 1 in 4 abortions is safe, compared to nearly 9 in 10 in countries where the procedure is broadly legal.”



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