BMC Public Health. 2015 Feb 12;15:139.

Health care providers' perceptions of and attitudes towards induced abortions in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia: a systematic literature review of qualitative and quantitative data

Rehnström Loi U, Gemzell-Danielsson K, Faxelid E and Klingberg-Allvin M

Abstract

Background: Unsafe abortions are a serious public health problem and a major human rights issue. In low-income countries, where restrictive abortion laws are common, safe abortion care is not always available to women in need. Health care providers have an important role in the provision of abortion services. However, the shortage of health care providers in low-income countries is critical and exacerbated by the unwillingness of some health care providers to provide abortion services. The aim of this study was to identify, summarise and synthesise available research addressing health care providers' perceptions of and attitudes towards induced abortions in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

Methods: : A systematic literature search of three databases was conducted in November 2014, as well as a manual search of reference lists. The selection criteria included quantitative and qualitative research studies written in English, regardless of the year of publication, exploring health care providers' perceptions of and attitudes towards induced abortions in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. The quality of all articles that met the inclusion criteria was assessed. The studies were critically appraised, and thematic analysis was used to synthesise the data.

Results: Thirty-six studies, published during 1977 and 2014, including data from 15 different countries, met the inclusion criteria. Nine key themes were identified as influencing the health care providers' attitudes towards induced abortions: 1) human rights, 2) gender, 3) religion, 4) access, 5) unpreparedness, 6) quality of life, 7) ambivalence 8) quality of care and 9) stigma and victimisation.

Conclusions: Health care providers in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia have moral-, social- and gender-based reservations about induced abortion. These reservations influence attitudes towards induced abortions and subsequently affect the relationship between the health care provider and the pregnant woman who wishes to have an abortion. A values clarification exercise among abortion care providers is needed.

Comment: Healthcare providers must clearly state their attitudes towards induced abortion, so women can choose where to go if they experience an unwanted pregnancy. This would save time and unnecessary suffering. Women who want an abortion, will continue to look for a solution and an early medical abortion is very much preferred over an unsafe abortion. (HMV)