Ronald Johnson


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    The Global Abortion Policies Project: a WHO-United Nations Population Division initiative to strengthen transparency of laws and policies and accountability for women’s health and human rights

    Brooke Ronald Johnson1, Bela Ganatra1, Rajat Khosla1, Vinod Mishra2
    1World Health Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland, 2United Nations, New York, USA

    Prevention of unsafe abortion is a core component of the WHO Reproductive Health Strategy to accelerate progress towards the attainment of international development goals and targets. To facilitate policy work towards preventing unsafe abortions, the WHO Safe Abortion technical and policy guidance for health systems (2012) recommends that:

    • Laws and policies on abortion should protect women's health and their human rights; 
    • Regulatory, policy and programmematic barriers that hinder access to and timely provision of safe abortion care should be removed;
    • An enabling regulatory and policy environment is needed to ensure that every woman who is legally eligible has ready access to safe abortion care; and,
    • Policies should be geared to respecting, protecting and fulfilling the human rights of women, to achieving positive health outcomes for women, to providing good-quality contraceptive information and services, and to meeting the particular needs of poor women, adolescents, rape survivors and women living with HIV.

    The Global Abortion Policies Project is designed to further strengthen global efforts to eliminate unsafe abortion by producing an open-access, interactive database and repository of current abortion laws, policies, and national standards and guidelines for all countries in the world.  The Project aims to increase the transparency of abortion laws and policies and accountability for implementation and protection of women's health and human rights.  The database and repository will facilitate comparisons of national laws and policies with WHO guidelines and international human rights standards related to safe abortion.  
    The first of three presentations will provide details on the methodology used to retrieve official legal and policy documents, extract selected information for the database and conduct independent validation and country review.  Plans for updating the database/repository, producing a second edition of Abortion policies: a global review, and working with international human rights bodies and intergovernmental organisations will also be presented.

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    WHO tools and activities addressing unsafe abortion

    R.Johnson, WHO, Switzerland

    This presentation will provide an overview of global experience implementing the WHO’s ‘Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems’*, using the WHO’s ‘Strategic Approach to strengthening sexual and reproductive health policies and programmes’** and ‘Using human rights to advance sexual and reproductive health: a tool for examining laws, regulations and policies’.

    The WHO safe abortion technical and policy guidance was first published in 2003.  The second edition is scheduled for publication in 2011 in addition to new WHO clinical guidelines on comprehensive abortion care.  The WHO Strategic Approach is a three-stage process that includes;

    1) a strategic assessment to identify and prioritize sexual and reproductive health needs;

    2) implementation of policy and programme interventions to address those needs;

    3) scaling up interventions so their benefits can have broader impact.

    It has been applied to prevention of unsafe abortion in 13 countries to date.  The WHO human rights tool (still in draft form, but piloted in several countries) is an instrument that can be used to document and examine laws, regulations and policies related to a broad range of sexual and reproductive health issues.  In June 2009, it was incorporated for the first time into a strategic assessment on unsafe abortion, conducted in Malawi.