Most research on abortion in Latin America has focused on women who are hospitalized with abortion complications, but little is known about the characteristics of women who are able to obtain clandestine procedures performed by trained personnel working in sanitary conditions.
Analysis of medical records for 808 clients of an urban clandestine abortion service in South America was supplemented with observation of clinic operations for six weeks in 1995.
Nearly nine in 10 clients had at least a secondary education, about three-quarters were younger than 30 and a similar proportion were unmarried. Fifty-four percent had never given birth, and 13% had had at least one prior abortion. Three-fifths of women had not been using a contraceptive method when they conceived; among users, three-fifths had been using a traditional method. Three percent experienced mild complications related to the procedure (e.g., heavy bleeding or pelvic pain), and another 2% reported serious complications (e.g., pelvic infection, hemorrhage or suspected uterine perforation).
To reduce the need for abortion, it is important for family planning programs to include women who are young, unmarried and highly educated in their outreach efforts.
International Family Planning Perspectives, 2001, 27(1):34-36