Estimates of health care system costs of unsafe abortion in Africa and Latin America

Int Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2009 Sep;35(3):114-21. doi: 10.1363/ipsrh.35.114.09.


Context: Each year, 19 million unsafe abortions occur in developing countries, and an estimated five million women are treated for the resulting serious medical complications. Meanwhile, the economic impact of postabortion care on health care systems in Africa and Latin America is poorly understood (data for Asia are lacking).

Methods: Two main approaches were used to estimate the cost of postabortion care: calculating the average cost of care per patient, as represented in 20 empirical studies, and analyzing treatment costs using the WHO Mother-Baby Package model, which enumerates the costs of specific components of treatment related to postabortion complications. The average cost estimates from each approach were multiplied by the annual number of cases of hospitalization for postabortion care to generate regional cost estimates. Three methods (low severity, weighted severity, and inclusion of overhead and capital costs) were used to generate a range of per-patient and regional cost estimates.

Results: The average per-patient cost of postabortion care ranged from $83 in Africa to $94 in Latin America (2006 US$); estimates based on the WHO Mother-Baby Package model were between $57 and $109 per case. The health system costs of postabortion care in the two regions combined ranged from $159 million to $333 million per year. The average estimates from the two approaches were similar: $280 million and $274 million, respectively.

Conclusions: The costs of treating medical complications from unsafe abortion constitute a significant financial burden on public health care systems in the developing world, and postabortion complications are a significant cause of maternal morbidity.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / economics*
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data
  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Developing Countries*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Latin America / epidemiology
  • Maternal Welfare / economics*
  • Maternal Welfare / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Women's Health / economics*
  • World Health Organization