Dr. Pascale Allotey, WHO’s Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research, and Head of the United Nations’ Special Programme for Human Reproduction (HRP), asserts, “Health workers play a pivotal role in providing exceptional abortion care that honors women and girls’ choices while meeting their unique needs. This groundbreaking guide aims to equip health workers with the tools to offer safe, timely, and effective abortion services while treating women and girls with unwavering dignity and upholding their rights.”
Revolutionizing Abortion Care:
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a cutting-edge clinical practice handbook tailored for health workers, enabling them to deliver top-tier abortion services for women and girls. This invaluable resource offers meticulous clinical advice to facilitate the implementation of WHO’s comprehensive guidance on abortion care, published in 2022.
Abortion care encompasses not only the procedure itself but also encompasses the provision of vital information, counseling, pain management, and post-abortion care, including contraception. Aligned with WHO’s updated recommendations, the Clinical practice handbook for quality abortion care goes beyond the norm, providing extensive guidance on how health workers can support self-management approaches and leverage telemedicine, where available.
Dr. Bela Ganatra, Head of the Comprehensive Abortion Care Unit at WHO, explains the significance, stating, “When a woman chooses self-management of abortion, health workers must equip her with accurate information and appropriate guidance to empower her in making informed decisions. Medical abortion has been instrumental in expanding access to safe abortion worldwide, particularly for vulnerable women and girls who lack access to healthcare facilities or wish to maintain the utmost privacy by avoiding hospital stays. Hence, it is vital that healthcare practitioners can facilitate self-management as a viable option for abortion care.”
A Paradigm Shift in Abortion Care:
The Handbook outlines practical applications for health workers, empowering them to incorporate human rights principles into their practice when delivering abortion care. It emphasizes the importance of providing complete and accurate information to women and girls, supporting informed choices, respecting consent and confidentiality, and enabling autonomous decision-making regarding reproductive health matters.
Supporting Health Workers and Breaking Barriers:
While the publication primarily focuses on the clinical aspects of abortion care, it recognizes the crucial need to support health workers who provide these services, free from judgment or retribution. Earlier this year, WHO released an evidence brief designed to assist policymakers in addressing legal and policy-related obstacles that hinder access to safe abortion. This publication is part of a comprehensive toolkit that includes a pocket guide and wall chart on medical abortion recommendations, as well as a toolkit on the competencies required for health workers to deliver exceptional abortion and family planning services.
The newly launched document replaces the 2014 version of the clinical handbook, symbolizing a transformative leap in advancing abortion care. Unveiled at the 33rd Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives in Bali, Indonesia, it is highly relevant to a wide range of health workers involved in delivering abortion services, spanning from midwives to physicians, nurses, and pharmacists. WHO’s commitment to promoting quality abortion care resonates worldwide, empowering women and girls to make choices that shape their reproductive health and well-being.