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American Journal of Public Health. 2013 Apr; 103(4):593-6.We discuss the history of the World Health Organization's (WHO's) development of guidelines for governments on providing safe abortion services, which WHO published as Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems in 2003 and updated in 2012. We show how the recognition of the devastating impact of unsafe abortion on women's health and survival, the impetus of the International Conference on Population and Development and its five-year follow-up, and WHO's progressive leadership at the end of the century enabled the organization to elaborate guidance on providing safe abortion services. Guideline formulation involved extensive review of published evidence, an international technical expert meeting to review the draft document, and a protracted in-house review by senior WHO management.