Reprod Health 2014 Dec 17;11:91. doi: 10.1186/1742-4755-11-91

Decision making on unsafe abortions in Sri Lanka: a case-control study

Arambepola C and Rajapaksa LC


Background: Following an unintended pregnancy, not every woman would invariably choose to undergo an unsafe abortion. It suggests that in the decision making process, women face both 'push' factors that favour abortion and 'pull' factors that work against it. This study assessed the circumstances that surrounded a woman's decision to undergo an unsafe abortion, compared to a decision to continue, when faced with an unintended pregnancy in Sri Lanka.

Methods: An unmatched case-control study was conducted among 171 women admitted to nine hospitals in eight districts following an unsafe abortion (Cases) and 600 women admitted to the same hospitals for delivery of an unintended term pregnancy (Controls). Interviewer-administered questionnaires and in-depth interviews assessed women's characteristics, decision making process and underlying reasons for their decision. The risk of abortion related to their decision making was assessed using odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI).

Results: Compared to controls, the cases were significantly less-educated, employed, unmarried and primi-gravid (p < 0.05). All knew the 'illegal' status of abortion, mainly through media (65.5% cases versus 80% controls). When making a decision, the risk of undergoing an unsafe abortion was significant among those who sought assistance (44% versus 32%; OR = 1.7 (95% CI = 1.2-2.4)), with more reliance placed on non-medical sources such as spouse/partner, friend, neighbour and family/relation. Speaking to women with past experience of induced abortions (31% versus 21.5%; OR = 1.6 (1.1-2.4) and failure in making the final decision with partners also imparted a significant risk for abortion (64% versus 34%; OR = 3.4; 2.4-4.8). A decision favouring unsafe abortion was predominantly based on their economic instability (29.5%) and poor support by partners (14%), whereas a decision against it was based on ethical considerations (44% religious beliefs: 12% social stigma) over its legal implications (4%). Most abortions were performed by unqualified persons (36.1% self proclaimed abortionists; 26.2% not revealed their qualifications) for a wide range of payment in non-sterile environments (45.9% unknown place) using septic procedures (38.5% trans-vaginal insertions; 24.6% unaware of the procedure).

Conclusions: Women's risk of unsafe abortion was associated with unreliable sources of information during decision making that led to poor knowledge and positive attitudes on its safety; poor access to affordable abortion services; and their economic instability.

Comment: Just like in the previous abstract we see here how crucial good information is for women who look for a safe abortion. A very low threshold of access to health care providers who are comfortable in talking about abortion, is a must. (HMV)