September 2006

Legal abortion in Peru: knowledge, attitudes and practices among a group of physician leaders

Pace L, Grossman D, Chavez S, Tavara L, Lara D, Guerrero R. Legal abortion in Peru: knowledge, attitudes and practices among a group of physician leaders. Gaceta Medica de Mexico. Sept-Oct 2006; 142(Supplement 2):91-5.

OBJECTIVE: We sought to examine knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding legal abortion among a group of Peruvian physicians.

METHODS: A pre-conference survey was mailed to Peruvian physicians invited to a workshop on legal abortion. A post-conference survey was distributed following the event.

RESULTS: Eighty-six percent of 35 respondents correctly indicated that abortion is legal in Peru when a pregnancy endangers a woman's life while less than 50% knew it is also legal when necessary to protect a woman's health. Knowledge about abortion techniques was lower for induced abortion than for management of incomplete abortions. Dilation and curettage was used more frequently than manual vacuum aspiration and medications. Half of physicians reported having performed a legal abortion. The vast majority of physicians surveyed thought legal indications for abortion should be expanded to include cases of rape or fetal malformations. Most considered their abortion training to be inadequate. They identified lack of training and administrative and professional support as barriers to legal abortion provision.

CONCLUSIONS: Physicians surveyed were willing to provide legal abortions but lacked the knowledge, skills, and support to do so. Improved training of health professionals, increasing institutional support, and developing administrative and legal procedures to guide management of women seeking abortions could increase women's access to legal abortion services and diminish the occurrence of unsafe abortion in Peru.