'High profile health facilities can add to your trouble': Women, stigma and un/safe abortion in Kenya

Soc Sci Med. 2015 Sep:141:9-18. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.07.019. Epub 2015 Jul 21.


Public health discourses on safe abortion assume the term to be unambiguous. However, qualitative evidence elicited from Kenyan women treated for complications of unsafe abortion contrasted sharply with public health views of abortion safety. For these women, safe abortion implied pregnancy termination procedures and services that concealed their abortions, shielded them from the law, were cheap and identified through dependable social networks. Participants contested the notion that poor quality abortion procedures and providers are inherently dangerous, asserting them as key to women's preservation of a good self, management of stigma, and protection of their reputation, respect, social relationships, and livelihoods. Greater public health attention to the social dimensions of abortion safety is urgent.

Keywords: Abortion safety; Kenya; Stigma; Unsafe abortion; Women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Criminal / economics
  • Abortion, Criminal / psychology*
  • Abortion, Induced / economics
  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Facilities* / standards
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Patient Safety
  • Pregnancy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Stigma*
  • Women's Health*
  • Young Adult