Factors influencing the choice of a backstreet abortion by young women from a township in Durban.
Mortality rates among women of reproductive age have been the focus of attention in the past two decades. Sexual reproductive health issues have been identified as one of the major contributors to mortality among women of reproductive age (Lehohlo, 2013). In South Africa, the government’s introduction of the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy (CTOP) Act of 1996 is a commendable effort to reduce maternal deaths among women. However, despite this progressive Act, women continue to risk their lives by undergoing backstreet abortion. While illegal abortions are still prevalent in South Africa, there is little research on the factors that influence young women to choose this risky option over the legal, free and safe service provided by the state. This study aimed to fill this research gap. The study employed an explorative qualitative design. Using semi-structured interviews, data was collected from 15 purposively selected respondents between the ages of 18 and 24. Underpinned by an ecosystems approach the study explored the factors within the environment that push young women to opt for backstreet abortion. The findings of this study show that socio-economic conditions continue to play a major role in young women’s reproductive health decisions. Since the majority of the respondents were unemployed, the financial costs of raising a child were one of the major factors influencing young women to opt for backstreet abortion. Furthermore health practitioners’ negative attitudes, a lack of privacy and the long waiting period for Termination of Pregnancy (TOP) services are some of the challenges experienced by abortion seekers at public health facilities. Based on the study’s findings, recommendations include the need for TOP services to be made available at primary health care centers, such as clinics, in order to relieve the pressure on tertiary health care centers and to ensure easy access for women from all economic backgrounds. Health providers are key instruments in promoting safe TOP; therefore there is a need for healthcare workers to receive training in order to address negative attitudes towards TOP.