Clandestine abortion in Port Harcourt: providers' motivations and experiences

Niger J Med. Jul-Aug 2008;17(3):291-5. doi: 10.4314/njm.v17i3.37414.


Background: Abortion is illegal in Nigeria. It is a crime to perform or obtain an abortion except to save a woman's life. In spite of this, several medical practitioners working in profit-oriented private clinics still provide abortion services on demand and on a fee for service basis. This study is to find out the motivations and experiences of these practitioners.

Methods: The study was carried out in 15 clinics in Port Harcourt that were known to provide abortion services, using a descriptive, cross-sectional study design. Data were collected using a semi-structured, self-administered questionnaire, followed a few days later by in-depth interview to further explore responses in the questionnaire.

Results: A total of 34 doctors, 29 males and 5 females that routinely provide abortion services in the clinics were interviewed. Most of them (79.42%) were below the age of 40 years, married (76.47%), non-specialist doctors (55.88%), and had practiced for less than fifteen years (88.24%). All the owners/Medical Directors of the clinics were actively engaged in providing abortion services, and most of the clinics (86.67%) had less than ten in-patient beds. All the providers were Christians, but most (85.29%) provided abortion services mainly for the financial benefit. Expertise for the abortion procedures were acquired in private clinics, but most of the providers (61.76%) restricted themselves to terminating pregnancies in which they felt were firmly within their level of competence. All the respondents used manual vacuum aspiration for the termination of pregnancies less than 12 weeks and charge an average of five thousand naira (N5,000.00) for an 8-week pregnancy

Conclusions: Most abortion providers in Nigeria are lured by the large market and the huge fees collected for the services. Abortion should be formally legalized in Nigeria to at least force down the service charge, and hence make safe abortion accessible to women of low socio-economic class.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Criminal / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Abortion, Criminal / statistics & numerical data
  • Abortion, Induced / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Planning Services
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Nigeria
  • Physicians / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted
  • Surveys and Questionnaires