The Incidence of Induced Abortion in Nigeria

Stanley K. Henshaw, Susheela Singh, Boniface A. Oye-Adeniran, Isaac F. Adewole, Ngozi Iwere and Yvette P. Cuca
International Family Planning Perspectives
Vol. 24, No. 4 (Dec., 1998), pp. 156-164
Published by: Guttmacher Institute
DOI: 10.2307/2991973
Stable URL:
Page Count: 9
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The Incidence of Induced Abortion in Nigeria


Context: Although abortion is illegal in Nigeria except to save the life of the woman, thousands of women resort to it each year. Information on the incidence of abortion and on the consequences of abortion outside the health care system is needed to develop policies and programs that will address the problem. Methods: Experienced physicians conducted interviews at a nationally representative sample of 672 health facilities in Nigeria that were considered potential providers of abortions or of treatment for abortion complications. The data were used to estimate the annual number of abortions and to describe the provision of abortion-related services. Results: Each year, Nigerian women obtain approximately 610,000 abortions, a rate of 25 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. The rate is much lower in the poor, rural regions of northern Nigeria than in the more economically developed southern regions. An estimated 40% of abortions are performed by physicians in established health facilities, while the rest are performed by nonphysician providers. Of the abortions performed by physicians, 87% take place in privately owned facilities and 73% are performed by nonspecialist general practitioners. Three-quarters of physician providers use manual vacuum aspiration to perform abortions, and 51% of providers who treat abortion complications use this method. Physician respondents believe that the main methods used by nurses, midwives and other nonphysicians to induce abortions are dilation and curettage, hormonal or synthetic drugs and insertion of solid or sharp objects. Conclusions: Although highly restricted, abortions take place in large numbers in Nigeria, under both safe and unsafe conditions. Policies to improve access to contraceptive services would reduce unplanned pregnancy and abortion and, along with greater access to safe abortion, would help preserve the health and lives of Nigerian women.