Nearly 20% of the 208 million pregnancies that occur annually are aborted. More than half of these (21.6 million) are unsafe, resulting in 47,000 abortion-related deaths each year. Accurate reports on the prevalence of abortion, the conditions under which it occurs, and the experiences women have in obtaining abortions are essential to addressing unsafe abortion globally. It is difficult, however, to obtain accurate and reliable reports of attitudes and practices given that abortion is often controversial and stigmatized, even in settings where it is legal. To improve the understanding and measurement of abortion, specific considerations are needed throughout all stages of the planning, design, and implementation of research on abortion: Establishment of strong local partnerships, knowledge of local culture, integration of innovative methodologies, and approaches that may facilitate better reporting. This paper draws on the authors’ collaborative research experiences conducting abortion-related studies using clinic- and community-based samples in five diverse settings (Poland, Zanzibar, Mexico City, the Philippines, and Bangladesh). The purpose of this paper is to share insights and lessons learned with new and established researchers to inform the development and implementation of abortion-related research. The paper discusses the unique challenges of conducting abortion-related research and key considerations for the design and implementation of abortion research, both to maximize data quality and to frame inferences from this research appropriately.
To read this article in full you will need to make a payment
Purchase one-time access:Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
One-time access price info
- For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
- For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'
Subscribe:Subscribe to Women's Health Issues
Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
Already an online subscriber? Sign in
Register: Create an account
Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect
- Menstrual regulation in Bangladesh.in: Basu A.M. The sociocultural and political aspects of abortion. Praeger, Westport, CT2003
- Studying unsafe abortion: A practical guide.Maternal and Newborn Health/Safe Motherhood Unit, Division of Reproductive Health (Technical Support), World Health Organization, Geneva1996
- Coeytaux F. Leonard A. Royston E. Methodological issues in abortion research. Population Council, New York1989
- The process of research in international settings: From risk assessment to program development and intervention.Journal of Urban Health. 2005; 82 (15): vi9
- Obtaining sensitive information: The need for more than focus groups.Reproductive Health Matters. 1994; 2: 75-78
- Ethical and methodological issues in conducting research on gender-based violence in Southern Africa.Reproductive Health Matters. 2000; 8: 93-103
- Underreporting of induced and spontaneous abortion in the United States: An analysis of the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth.Studies in Family Planning. 2007; 38: 187-197
- Conducting health-related social science research in low income settings: Ethical dilemmas faced in Kenya and South Africa.Journal of International Development. 2009; 21: 309-326
- Self-reports of induced abortion: An empathetic setting can improve the quality of data.American Journal of Public Health. 2000; 90: 1141-1144
- Accessing married adolescent women: The realities of ethnographic research in an urban slum environment in Dhaka, Bangladesh.Field Methods. 2007; 19: 369-383
- Induced abortion: Estimated rates and trends worldwide.The Lancet. 2007; 370: 1338-1345
- Unsafe abortion in 2008: Global and regional levels and trends.Reproductive Health Matters. 2010; 18: 90-101
- The integration of fieldwork and survey methods.American Journal of Sociology. 1973; 78: 1335-1359
- Abortion worldwide: A decade of uneven Progress.Guttmacher Institute, New York2009
- Unintended pregnancy and induced abortion in the Philippines: Causes and consequences.Guttmacher Institute, New York2006
- Estimates of threatening behavior based on reports of friends.Public Opinion Quarterly. 1977; 41: 261-264
- ‘The truth of our day by day lives’: Abortion decision making in rural Thailand.Culture, Health and Sexuality. 2002; 4: 1-20
Jessica D. Gipson, MPH, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health. Her research focuses on sexual and reproductive health decision-making and outcomes.
Davida Becker, PhD, is a Research Scholar at the Center for the Study of Women at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research focuses on the accessibility and quality of reproductive health services and disparities in reproductive health outcomes.
Joanna Z. Mishtal, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Central Florida. Her current research, situated in Ireland and at the European Union, examines the role of conscience-based objection in the provision of reproductive health services.
Alison H. Norris, MD, PhD, was an Ellertson Fellow from 2008–2010. At the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, she pursues multi-method research on sexual and reproductive health epidemiology in under served women and men.
Accepted: January 20, 2011
Received in revised form: January 20, 2011
Received: October 22, 2010
© 2011 Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.