Understanding abortion seeking care outside of formal health care settings in Cape Town, South Africa: A qualitative study
Harries J, Daskilewicz K, Bessenaar T, Gerdts C. Understanding abortion seeking care outside of formal health care settings in Cape Town, South Africa: A qualitative study. Reproductive Health. September 2021. DOI: 10.1186/s12978-021-01243-3
Background: Although abortion was legalized in South Africa in 1996, barriers to safe, legal abortion services remain, and women continue to seek abortions outside of the formal healthcare sector. This study explored the decision-making processes that women undertake when faced with an unintended pregnancy, the sources of information used to make their decisions and the factors that contribute to their seeking of informal sector abortion in Cape Town, South Africa.
Methods: We conducted 15 semi-structured in-depth interviews in English with women who had accessed an abortion outside of the formal health care sector. Women were recruited with the assistance of a community-based key informant. Data was analyzed using a thematic analysis approach.
Results: Participants were aware that abortions were legal and accessible in public clinics, however they were concerned that others would find out about their unintended pregnancy and abortion if they went to legal providers. Women were also concerned about judgment and mistreatment from providers during their care. Rather than seek care in the formal sector, women looked past concerns around the safety and effectiveness of informal sector abortions and often relied on their social networks for referrals to informal providers.
Conclusions: The findings highlight the decision-making processes employed by women when seeking abortion services in a setting where abortion is legal and demonstrate the role of institutional and societal barriers to safe abortion access. Abortion service delivery models should adapt to women’s needs to enhance the preferences and priorities of those seeking abortion care-including those who prefer facility-based care as well as those who might prefer self-managed medical abortions.