First study on the incidence of abortion among Ethiopian adolescents released

Improved access to safe abortion has benefited adolescent women

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Chart showing study results

A new study by researchers from Ipas and the Guttmacher Institute finds that adolescent women are more likely than older women to seek legal and safe abortion services, since the 2005 expansion on Ethiopia’s abortion law.

Playing it Safe: Legal and Clandestine Abortions Among Adolescents in Ethiopia,” documents the legal and unsafe abortion rates among Ethiopian adolescents ages 15-19 years. The study found that complications from unsafe abortion are just as severe among adolescents as they are among other age groups.

Chart showing results of a study by Ipas and Guttmacher Institute

Before the expansion of the law in 2005, Ethiopian law only permitted abortion to save the life of a woman or to protect her physical health. The revised law allows abortion if a woman has physical or mental disabilities, if she is younger than 18 years old, or in instances of rape, incest and fetal impairment.

“The liberalization of Ethiopia’s abortion law has enabled many adolescents to obtain safe abortion care,” said Yohannes Dibaba, one of the study’s authors and former Ipas staff member. “Yet additional research is needed to understand why a substantial number of adolescent women continue to obtain clandestine—and potentially unsafe—abortion procedures.”

The researchers found that adolescents seeking care after unsafe abortion experience severe complications at the same rate as older women compared with adolescents who had access to legal and safe abortion services. Adolescents with complications from unsafe abortions are more likely to be married, to have less education and to be in their second trimester of pregnancy.

Chart showing results of a study by Ipas and Guttmacher Institute

The study suggests more research is needed to examine the factors—autonomy in reproductive decisionmaking, distance from health facilities, stigmatization of abortion and knowledge of the abortion law—that may contribute to adolescent women continuing to seek clandestine, unsafe abortions.

Further research will help ensure that all adolescent women have access to safe and legal abortion services in Ethiopia.