Ibis responds to the new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on abortion care

March 2022

March 9, 2022 – Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines around abortion care that synthesize recommendations on clinical practice, health service delivery, and legal and policy interventions to support quality abortion care. These guidelines affirm evidence generated by Ibis Reproductive Health’s SAFE Study—conducted in close partnership with safe abortion accompaniment groups and activists around the world—and now fully recommend self-managed medication abortion as part of a full range of safe, effective options for abortion care.

The WHO’s new guidelines on abortion care are a critical tool for safeguarding people’s health and rights everywhere. We are especially pleased that the guidelines reflect the state of the evidence and recognize self-managed abortion as one of a range of safe, effective options. The research that Ibis Reproductive Health has conducted in partnership with safe abortion accompaniment groups and activists around the world clearly shows that self-managed medication abortion is as safe and effective as clinician-managed medication abortion,” said Caitlin Gerdts, PhD, MHS, Ibis’s Vice President of Research, who served as an independent member of the Guidelines Development Group. “These guidelines represent an important step forward for reproductive health, rights, and justice globally. We commend our colleagues and partners whose activism, dedication, and research contributed to these important guidelines, and we look forward to continued work together to ensure safe and equitable access to abortion care around the world.”

Governments and professional bodies have enacted a multitude of restrictions on the use of medication abortion outside of clinical settings, creating legal risks and reinforcing harmful stigmas around self-managed medication abortion that can impact, delay, and prevent people from accessing care. The new WHO guidelines recommend the full decriminalization of abortion, the removal of grounds-based restrictions on abortion, and the removal of gestational age limits on abortion provision, all of which have the potential to directly impact future abortion legislation in countries around the globe. In addition, by including self-managed abortion among the WHO-recommended methods and models of care, the new guidelines encourage health systems and all health care providers to view self-managed abortion as a safe and legitimate option for abortion care. To that end, the guidelines also recognize non-clinical community providers as recommended providers of medication abortion care, asserting what abortion accompaniment groups have known for decades: that self-managed medication abortion with accompaniment support is safe and effective, and can be an essential and empowering option for countless people across the globe.

We at Ibis celebrate these critical changes to the WHO’s guidelines for abortion care, which would not have been possible without the groundbreaking, revolutionary work of our partners: activists, providers, abortion accompaniers, safe abortion hotlines, and grassroots groups whose activism, innovation, research, and tireless efforts to ensure access to evidence-based abortion care—regardless of legal setting—have paved the way for a future in which everyone has access to the sexual and reproductive health care they want and need, and no one is forced to face legal ramifications for exercising their human right to bodily autonomy.