March 9, 2021
Some of Onikepe Owolabi's most vivid memories of medical school in her native Nigeria are of the teenage girls she saw in the emergency room of a rural hospital with complications from an unsafe abortion — painful infections that, if left untreated, can lead to permanent disability or even death.
Each time, Owolabi, now a senior research scientist with the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit reproductive rights organization in the U.S. that supports abortion rights, assisted doctors in promptly providing the girls with a group of essential obstetric services known collectively as "post-abortion care," or PAC.
Despite Widespread Support for Postabortion Care, Many Countries’ Health Systems Do Not Have the Capacity to Provide Essential Services
New 10-Country Study Identifies Gaps in Postabortion Care
First published online: November 29, 2018
There are critical gaps in the provision of postabortion care (PAC) at facilities that offer childbirth delivery services in many countries, highlighting a disconnect between national governments’ commitments to address the consequences of unsafe abortion and the capacity of health systems to provide essential services, according to a new study published today in The Lancet Global Health. “Health Systems' Capacity to Provide Post-Abortion Care: A Multicountry Analysis Using Signal Functions,” by Guttmacher researchers Onikepe Owolabi, Ann Biddlecom and Hannah Whitehead, found an unacceptably low level of appropriate medical care provided to women who experienced complications from abortion or miscarriage and who sought treatment in one of 10 countries across three regions.
Abortion-related mortality is one of the main causes of maternal mortality worldwide. Laws often restrict the provision of safe abortion care, yet post-abortion care is a service that all countries have committed to provide to manage abortion complications. There is minimal evidence on the capacity of national health systems to provide post-abortion care.