TUNISIA – Dualities between Tunisian provider beliefs and actions in abortion care

by Sarah Raifman, Selma Hajri, Caitlin Gerdts, Diana Foster

Reproductive Health Matters, 2018;26(52):159-169  DOI: 10.1080/09688080.2018.1472486

(Open access)


Despite Tunisia’s historically progressive reproductive health policies, Tunisian women now face significant challenges accessing legal abortion. Through in-depth interviews with providers at six facilities, we explored factors influencing provider attitudes about abortion and provider perspectives about abortion morality, safety, and legality. We found that gatekeepers (counsellors and front office staff) generally believed abortion was immoral, while obstetricians and gynecologists were more likely to support an individual’s right to access abortion. However, providers’ actions do not necessarily align with their stated beliefs regarding abortion; some providers who said they support abortion access generally held personal beliefs about when and for whom abortion is appropriate which influenced their provision of care. System-level barriers to abortion provision, such as a lack of resources, hinder some providers who may otherwise be willing to provide the service. These system-level barriers may also account for inconsistencies between providers’ beliefs and actions related to abortion. Illuminating the complexity in provider beliefs and attitudes about abortion can help us to better understand whether and why abortion care is provided, as well as the factors that ultimately determine whether a woman can obtain an abortion.