Protocol for a scoping review of research on abortion in sub-Saharan Africa

PLoS One. 2021 Jul 15;16(7):e0254818. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0254818. eCollection 2021.


Introduction: Unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality, and access to safe abortion services remains a public health priority in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). A considerable amount of abortion research exists in the region; however, the spread of existing evidence is uneven such that some countries have an acute shortage of data with others over-researched. The imbalance reflects the complexities in prioritization among researchers, academics, and funders, and undeniably impedes effective policy and advocacy efforts. This scoping review aims to identify and map the landscape of abortion research in SSA, summarize existing knowledge, and pinpoint significant gaps, both substantive and geographic, requiring further investigation. This review will provide direction for future research, investments, and offer guidance for policy and programming on safe abortion.

Materials and methods: We utilize the Joanna Briggs Institute's methodology for conducting scoping reviews. We will perform the search for articles in 8 electronic databases (i.e., PubMed, AJOL, Science Direct, SCOPUS, HINARI, Web of Knowledge, CINAHL, and WHO Regional Databases). We will include studies written in English or French language, produced or published between January 1, 2011, and July 31, 2021, and pertain directly to the subject of abortion in SSA. Using a tailored extraction frame, we will extract relevant information from publications that meet the inclusion criteria. Data will be analyzed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis in response to key review questions.

Ethics and dissemination: Formal ethical approval is not required, as no primary data will be collected. The findings of this study will be disseminated through peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Pregnancy

Grant support

This research is supported through the funding to APHRC by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency ( The funders had and will not have a role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.