Reproductive Health Matters 2011;22 Issue 2 June

Women’s perceptions about abortion in their communities: perspectives from western Kenya

Marlow H, Gupta M, Aborigo R, Adongo P and Engman C

Unsafe abortion in Kenya is a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality. In October 2012, we sought to understand the methods married women aged 24–49 and young, unmarried women aged = 20 used to induce abortion, the providers they utilized and the social, economic and cultural norms that influenced women’s access to safe abortion services in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties in western Kenya. We conducted five focus groups with young women and five with married women in rural and urban communities in each county. We trained local facilitators to conduct the focus groups in Swahili or English. All focus groups were audiotaped, transcribed, translated, computerized, and coded for analysis. Abortion outside public health facilities was mentioned frequently. Because of the need for secrecy to avoid condemnation, uncertainty about the law, and perceived higher cost of safer abortion methods, women sought unsafe abortions from community midwives, drug sellers and/or untrained providers at lower cost. Many groups believed that abortion was safer at higher gestational ages, but that there was no such thing as a safe abortion method. Our aim was to inform the design of a community-based intervention on safe abortion for women. Barriers to seeking safe services such as high cost, perceived illegality, and fear of insults and abuse at public facilities among both age groups must be addressed.

Comment: It is clear from this publication that providers of abortion must be well trained in providing not only the technical services, but also in counseling about social aspects. (HMV)