A community survey in the Shomolu area of Lagos Nigeria showed the incidence of induced abortion to be 5.6%. Most of the abortions were carried out under medical supervision, using a combination of methods. Reasons for the abortions suggest that many were carried out on pregnancies that could have been prevented.
PIP: In Nigeria, abortion is allowed only to save the life of the woman. The violation of the anti-abortion law carries with it the stiff penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment. In spite of the stiff law, cases of bungled illegal abortions continue to be seen in the hospitals where they often present as septic abortions. The impact of illegal abortion on maternal mortality and morbidity is considerable. The incidence of abortion reported in this study (5.6%) is close to that of a previous study. This figure is probably a gross underestimation, as abortion is illegal, and women might not easily own up to having induced one. The reasons given for the abortions in this study have implications for the provision of family planning services. Illegal abortions are 10-250 times more dangerous than any kind of contraceptive measure, depending on the age of the woman, and the method used. Ignorance of family planning services is not an excuse in this sample as up to 95.2% of them knew about some modern contraceptive methods, and 85.4% were aware of the family planning services in the family health clinic in the target area. The abortees as a group have a higher rate of past use of contraception. Some of the women were afraid of complications arising from contraceptive methods. Others may have been using abstinence as a method of child spacing, which is common in this environment. Family planning services can be improved upon, especially in the areas of education regarding services available and dispelling rumors that arise about possible complications of contraceptive use. In addition, prompt treatment of complications will help to allay fears of users and potential users. Society should also be made aware of the socioeconomic and financial burden of illegal abortion.