Eleven Problems with the 2012 WHO Technical Guidance on Abortion

By Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D. and Rebecca Oas, Ph.D. | November 7, 2012

The second edition of the World Health Organization’s Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems deserves scrutiny because it raises questions about whether it promotes the highest standards of medical care. The guidance aims at ensuring that abortion may be performed more widely by non-medical personnel even if it has to proceed without diagnosis, ultrasound, follow-up care, or drugs that have become standard in medical practice.

A primary concern is the WHO is recommending abortion practices for women in developing countries that have been rejected by medical experts in the developed world. WHO bases its promotion of the revised guidelines on claims that abortion is both safer than childbirth and also a human right, neither of which enjoys international agreement.

This paper analyzes the 11 most troubling aspects in two main areas: the way the guidance would raise the risk to women’s health and the way the guidance is based upon faulty legal and scientific data.