September 2018

Using respondent-driven sampling to estimate lifetime prevalence of informal sector abortion among women of reproductive age in Soweto, South Africa

Gerts C, Jayaweera R, Munoz I, Motana R, Bessenaar T, Wesson P. Using Respondent Driven Sampling to Estimate Lifetime Prevalence of Informal Sector Abortion among Women of Reproductive Age in Soweto, South Africa. Population Association of America. September 2018.

In contexts where abortion is legally restricted or other barriers hinder abortion access, abortion commonly occurs outside of the formal health sector. In such contexts, unsafe abortion persists as a completely preventable cause of maternal mortality and morbidity, but increasing access to mifepristone and misoprostol—drugs that can be used to safely terminate an unwanted pregnancy—and reliable information about medication abortion protocols can enable those who cannot access formal sector abortions services to safely self-manage abortions on their own. Indirect methods for estimating the prevalence of induced abortions rely on assumptions and extrapolations that are often difficult to test, and direct survey techniques suffer from widespread underreporting. Respondent-driven sampling (RDS), a methodology that relies on peer-to-peer recruitment, has been used to estimate the prevalence of health outcomes among hidden populations, and may be a potential strategy for abortion incidence estimation.