Safe abortion is not only a matter of law and policy. It is not sought in a vacuum. There are socio-cultural dimensions that inform decisions to seek termination of pregnancy. Where education and employment are not easily accessible, young women and girls are pushed towards early marriage. Where violence against women is rife, this increases the risk of unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortion. Understanding these societal dimensions of reproductive health care ensures a holistic approach to the challenges that impede its full realisation. This paper examines the framework that regulates the right to abortion and the inherent deficiencies in that law. The constitutional provisions on safe abortion are explored particularly in terms of the extent to which they improve the legal framework and create opportunities for actualising the right.
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.
BACKGROUND: Complications due to unsafe abortion cause high maternal morbidity and mortality, especially in developing countries. This study describes post-abortion complication severity and associated factors in Kenya. METHODS: A nationally representative sample of 326 health facilities was included in the survey. All regional and national referral hospitals and a random sample of lower level facilities were selected. Data were collected from 2,625 women presenting with abortion complications. A complication severity indicator was developed as the main outcome variable for this paper and described by women's socio-demographic characteristics and other variables. Ordered logistic regression models were used for multivariable analyses. RESULTS: Over three quarters of abortions clients presented with moderate or severe complications. About 65 % of abortion complications were managed by manual or electronic vacuum aspiration, 8% by dilation and curettage, 8% misoprostol and 19% by forceps and fingers. The odds of having moderate or severe complications for mistimed pregnancies were 43% higher than for wanted pregnancies (OR, 1.43; CI 1.01-2.03). For those who never wanted any more children the odds for having a severe complication was 2 times (CI 1.36-3.01) higher compared to those who wanted the pregnancy then. Women who reported inducing the abortion had 2.4 times higher odds of having a severe complication compared to those who reported that it was spontaneous (OR, 2.39; CI 1.72-3.34). Women who had a delay of more than 6 hours to get to a health facility had at least 2 times higher odds of having a moderate/severe complication compared to those who sought care within 6 hours from onset of complications. A delay of 7-48 hours was associated with OR, 2.12 (CI 1.42-3.17); a delay of 3-7 days OR, 2.01 (CI 1.34-2.99) and a delay of more than 7 days, OR 2.35 (CI 1.45-3.79). CONCLUSION: Moderate and severe post-abortion complications are common in Kenya and a sizeable proportion of these are not properly managed. Factors such as delay in seeking care, interference with pregnancy, and unwanted pregnancies are important determinants of complication severity and fortunately these are amenable to targeted interventions.
This study explores students' narratives and discourses about adolescent pregnancy and abortion elicited via internet-based open-ended questions posed in response to a cartoon vignette. We report on content analysis of recommendations and strategies for how to manage the unplanned pregnancy of a fictional young couple and in their own personal lives. The responses of 614 young people were analysed. Strategies vary widely. They include giving birth, adoption, running away, abortion, denial, and postponement until discovery. Young people were also queried about unplanned pregnancy resolution among their peers. Discourse analysis reveals competing social scripts on abortion. Florid condemnation of abortion acts in the hypothetical cases contrasts with more frank and sober description of peers' real life abortion behaviour. Students' language is compared with that found in official curricula. The rhetorical devices, moralizing social scripts and dubious health claims about abortion in students' online narratives mirror the tenor and content of their academic curricula as well as Kenyan media presentation of the Issue. The need for factual information, dispassionate dialogue and improved contraceptive access is considerable.
"BACKGROUND: Unsafe abortion is a leading cause of death among young women aged 10-24 years in sub-Saharan Africa. Although having multiple induced abortions may exacerbate the risk for poor health outcomes, there has been minimal research on young women in this region who have multiple induced abortions. The objective of this study was therefore to assess the prevalence and correlates of reporting a previous induced abortion among young females aged 12-24 years seeking abortion-related care in Kenya. METHODS: We used data on 1,378 young women aged 12-24 years who presented for abortion-related care in 246 health facilities in a nationwide survey conducted in 2012. Socio-demographic characteristics, reproductive and clinical histories, and physical examination assessment data were collected from women during a one-month data collection period using an abortion case capture form. RESULTS: Nine percent (n = 98) of young women reported a previous induced abortion prior to the index pregnancy for which they were receiving care. Statistically significant differences by previous history of induced abortion were observed for area of residence, religion and occupation at bivariate level. Urban dwellers and unemployed/other young women were more likely to report a previous induced abortion. A greater proportion of young women reporting a previous induced abortion stated that they were using a contraceptive method at the time of the index pregnancy (47 %) compared with those reporting No previous induced abortion (23 %). Not surprisingly, a greater proportion of young women reporting a previous induced abortion (82 %) reported their index pregnancy as unintended (Not wanted at all or mistimed) compared with women reporting No previous induced abortion (64 %). CONCLUSIONS: Our study results show that about one in every ten young women seeking abortion-related care in Kenya reports a previous induced abortion. Comprehensive post-abortion care services targeting young women are needed. In particular, post-abortion care service providers must ensure that young clients receive contraceptive counseling and effective pregnancy prevention methods before discharge from the health care facility to prevent unintended pregnancies that may result in subsequent induced abortions."
Public health discourses on safe abortion assume the term to be unambiguous. However, qualitative evidence elicited from Kenyan women treated for complications of unsafe abortion contrasted sharply with public health views of abortion safety. For these women, safe abortion implied pregnancy termination procedures and services that concealed their abortions, shielded them from the law, were cheap and identified through dependable social networks. Participants contested the Notion that poor quality abortion procedures and providers are inherently dangerous, asserting them as key to women's preservation of a good self, management of stigma, and protection of their reputation, respect, social relationships, and livelihoods. Greater public health attention to the social dimensions of abortion safety is urgent.
BACKGROUND: Although the experiences of unintended pregnancies and poor birth outcomes among adolescents aged 15-19 years in the general population are well documented, there is limited understanding of the same among those who are living with HIV. This paper examines the factors associated with experiencing unintended pregnancies, poor birth outcomes, and post-partum contraceptive use among HIV-positive female adolescents in Kenya. METHODS: Data are from a cross-sectional study that captured information on pregnancy histories of HIV-positive female adolescents in four regions of Kenya: Coast, Nairobi, Nyanza and Rift Valley provinces. Study participants were identified through HIV and AIDS programs in the four regions. Out of a total of 797 female participants, 394 had ever been pregnant with 24% of them experiencing multiple pregnancies. Analysis entails the estimation of random-effects logit models. RESULTS: Higher order pregnancies were just as likely to be unintended as lower order ones (odds ratios [OR]: 1.2; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.8-2.0) while pregnancies occurring within marital unions were significantly less likely to be unintended compared to those occurring outside such unions (OR: 0.1; 95% CI: 0.1-0.2). Higher order pregnancies were significantly more likely to result in poor outcomes compared to lower order ones (OR: 2.5; 95% CI: 1.6-4.0). In addition, pregnancies occurring within marital unions were significantly less likely to result in poor outcomes compared to those occurring outside such unions (OR: 0.3; 95% CI: 0.1-0.9). However, experiencing unintended pregnancy was not significantly associated with adverse birth outcomes (OR: 1.3; 95% CI: 0.5-3.3). There was also no significant difference in the likelihood of post-partum contraceptive use by whether the pregnancy was unintended (OR: 0.9; 95% CI: 0.5-1.5). CONCLUSIONS: The experience of repeat unintended pregnancies among HIV-positive female adolescents in the sample is partly due to inconsistent use of contraception to prevent recurrence while poor birth outcomes among higher order pregnancies are partly due to abortion. This underscores the need for HIV and AIDS programs to provide appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and services to HIV-positive adolescent clients in order to reduce the risk of undesired reproductive health outcomes.
"BACKGROUND: Over six million induced abortions were reported in Africa in 2008 with over two million induced abortions occurring in Eastern Africa. Although a significant proportion of women in the region procure more than one abortion during their reproductive period, there is a dearth of research on factors associated with repeat abortion. METHODS: Data for this study come from the Magnitude and Incidence of Unsafe Abortion Study conducted by the African Population and Health Research Center in Kenya in 2012. The study used a nationally-representative sample of 350 facilities (level II to level VI) that offer post-abortion services for complications following induced and spontaneous abortions. A prospective morbidity survey tool was used by health providers in 328 facilities to collect information on socio-demographic characteristics, reproductive health history and contraceptive use at conception for all patients presenting for post-abortion services. Our analysis is based on data recorded on 769 women who were classified as having had an induced abortion. RESULTS: About 16 % of women seeking post-abortion services for an induced abortion reported to have had a previous induced abortion. Being separated or divorced or widowed, having no education, having unwanted pregnancy, having 1–2 prior births and using traditional methods of contraception were associated with a higher likelihood of a repeat induced abortion. CONCLUSIONS: The findings point to the need to address the reasons why women with first time induced abortion do not have the necessary information to prevent unintended pregnancies and further induced abortions. Possible explanations linked to the quality of post-abortion family planning and coverage of long-acting methods should be explored. "
"BACKGROUND: Delays in seeking quality post-abortion care services remain a major contributor to high levels of mortality and morbidity among women who experience unsafe abortion. However, little is known about the causes of and factors associated with delays in seeking care among women who suffer complications of unsafe abortion. This study looks at factors that are associated with delays in seeking post-abortion care among women in Kenya. METHODS: Data for this study were from a nationally representative sample of 350 healthcare facilities that participated in the 2012 Incidence and Magnitude of Unsafe Abortion study in Kenya. Data included socio-demographic characteristics, reproductive health and clinical histories from all women treated with PAC during a one-month data collection period. RESULTS: Delay in seeking care was associated with women’s age, education level, contraceptive history, fertility intentions and referral status. CONCLUSIONS: There is need to improve women’s access to quality sexual and reproductive health information and services, contraception and abortion care. Improving current PAC services at lower level facilities will also minimize delays resulting from long referral processes. "