February 2005

Women's perspectives on medical abortion in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru: A qualitative study

Lafaurie MM, Grossman D, Troncoso E, Billings D, Chavez S. Women's Perspectives on Medical Abortion in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru: A Qualitative Study. Reproductive Health Matters. February 2005; 13(26):75-83.

In Latin America, where abortion is almost universally legally restricted, medical abortion, especially with misoprostol alone, is increasingly being used, often with the tablets obtained from a pharmacy. We carried out in-depth interviews with 49 women who had had a medical abortion under clinical supervision in rural and urban settings in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, who were recruited through clinicians providing abortions. The women often chose medical abortion to avoid a surgical abortion; they thought medical abortion was less painful, easier or simpler, safer or less risky. They commonly described it as a natural process of regulating their period. The fact that it was less expensive also influenced their decision. Some, who experienced a lot of pain, heavy bleeding or a failed procedure requiring surgical back-up, tended to be more negative about it. Regardless of legal restrictions, medical abortion was being provided safely in these settings and women found the method acceptable. Where feasible, it should be made available but cost should not have to be women's primary reason for choosing it. Psychosocial support during abortion is critical, especially for those who are more vulnerable because they see abortion as a sin, who are young or poor, who have limited knowledge about their bodies, whose partners are not supportive or who became pregnant through sexual violence.