by Jill Durocher, Catherine Kilfedder, Laura J Frye, Beverly Winikoff, Karthik Srinivasan
SRHM, Volume 29, Issue 1, 1 November 2021 (Open access)
Pharmacies in low- and middle-income countries play an important role in increasing the availability of medical abortion to individuals for self-use. We aimed to document the costs to users of medical abortion products at outlets across geographies and understand the diversity of available products, primarily in low- and middle-income countries or in places where access to abortion is restricted. A descriptive analysis of price data was completed for identified medical abortion products at retail outlets visited in 44 countries from November 2017 to February 2018. Median prices and ranges are reported in $US for mifepristone 200 mg tablets, misoprostol 200 mcg tablets, and combi-packs. Misoprostol, mifepristone, and combi-packs were found in 44, 19, and 16 countries, respectively. Nearly two-thirds of products (321/508) required a prescription. The median price of misoprostol was $0.63 per tablet (range $0.09–$27.63) based on 304 price points. Mifepristone and combi-packs had fewer price points available (n = 59 and n = 44, respectively). Median prices were $11.78 per mifepristone tablet (range $1.77–$37.83) and $11.18 per combi-pack (range $3.50–$35.86). Overall, prices were highest in Latin America and lowest in South/Southeast Asia. Only 11.5% (7/61) of the total unique misoprostol brands were quality-assured (i.e. approved by a stringent regulatory authority or pre-qualified by the World Health Organization), compared to 25.0% (4/16) of unique combi-pack products. There was wide variation in product pricing and availability across settings. The infrequent availability of mifepristone and combi-packs, in addition to the limited availability of quality-assured medicines and high cost of abortion medications, were important factors affecting access to high-quality abortion care.
Obstacles and opportunities: a qualitative study of the experiences of abortion centre staff with abortion care during the first Covid-19 lockdown in Flanders, Belgium
by Leen de Kort, Edwin Wouters, Sarah van de Velde
SRHM, Volume 29, Issue 1, 13 May 2021 (Open access)
The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding measures impacted the organisation of services for abortion on request in Flanders, Belgium. This study describes abortion centre staff’s perceptions of the influence of protective measures on abortion consultations and procedures, and aims to identify obstacles and opportunities that arose from this situation. Through the anonymised patient records of one Flemish abortion centre, we compared the number of requests and abortions during the first lockdown (16 March–14 June 2020) with the same period in the five preceding years. Using a phenomenological approach, we documented the procedures and conducted interviews (all inductively coded in Nvivo) with the centre’s coordinator, seven psychosocial staff members and three doctors. Though fewer people requested and had an abortion, the pressure on the staff was high due to changed procedures. A substantial change was the substitution of telephone for in-person consultations, which the staff perceived as less suited for discussing worries, contraception counselling, and building trust. The centre remained accessible, but the staff perceived an influence on the emotional reactions of clients. Staff agreed that the lockdown did not negatively influence the abortion procedure itself. However, they felt a negative influence on the level of psychological support they could offer, especially in interactions with clients who were less certain of their choice and clients with whom there was no common language. When the lockdown was relaxed, a triage system was set up to ensure emotionally safe abortion care – as perceived by staff – for all clients.
Women’s experiences using drugs to induce abortion acquired in the informal sector in Colombia: qualitative interviews with users in Bogotá and the Coffee Axis
by Ann M Moore, Juliette Ortiz, Nakeisha Blades, Hannah Whitehead, Cristina Villarreal
SRHM Vol 29, Issue 1, 18 March 2021 (Open access)
In 2006, abortion in Colombia was decriminalised under certain circumstances. Yet some women continue to avail themselves of ways to terminate pregnancies outside of the formal health system. In-depth interviews (IDIs) with women who acquired drugs outside of health facilities to terminate their pregnancies (n = 47) were conducted in Bogotá and the Coffee Axis in 2018. Respondents were recruited when they sought post-abortion care at a health facility. This analysis examines women’s experiences with medication acquired outside of the health system for a termination: how they obtained the medication, what they received, how they were instructed to use the pills, the symptoms they were told to expect, and their abortion experiences. Respondents purchased the drugs in drug stores, online, from street vendors, or through contacts in their social networks. Women who used online vendors more commonly received the minimum dose of misoprostol according to WHO guidelines to complete the abortion (800 mcg) and received more detailed instructions and information about what to expect than women who bought the drug elsewhere. Common instructions were to take the pills orally and vaginally; most women received incomplete information about what to expect. Most women seeking care did not have a complete abortion before coming to the health facility (they never started bleeding or had an incomplete abortion). Women still face multiple barriers to safe abortion in Colombia; policymakers should promote better awareness about legal abortion availability, access to quality medication and complete information about misoprostol use for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies safely.
Abortion hotlines around the world: a mixed-methods systematic and descriptive review
by Roopan K Gill, Amanda Cleeve, Antonella F Lavelanet
SRHM Vol 29, Issue 1, April 2021
Barriers to access abortion services globally have led to the development of alternative methods to assist and support women who seek an abortion. One such method is the use of hotlines, currently utilised globally for abortion care. This review aimed to understand (1) how abortion hotlines facilitate access to abortion; and (2) how women and stakeholders describe the impact of hotlines on abortion access. Published quantitative and qualitative studies and grey literature were systematically reviewed alongside an identification and description of abortion hotlines in the public domain. Our findings highlight that the existence of abortion hotlines is highly context-dependent. They may exist either as an independent community-based model of care, or as part of formal care pathways within the health system. Hotlines operating in contexts with legal restrictions seem to be broader in scope and will use innovative approaches to adapt to their setting and reach hard-to-reach populations. All the abortion hotlines that provided information on a data extraction form used evidence-based guidelines but women seeking medical abortion still struggle to access quality medications. There is limited data in general on abortion hotlines, especially on the user and provider experience. Abortion hotlines have the potential to facilitate access to safe abortion care through evidence-based information and to decrease maternal mortality and morbidity from unsafe abortions for women and girls globally.