Global Turnaway Study
ANSIRH’s Global Turnaway Studies were inspired by the success of the U.S. Turnaway Study, a five-year prospective longitudinal study of the impact of receiving versus being denied an abortion on women’s physical and mental health and socioeconomic well-being in the U.S.
Denial of abortion in legal settings
In most countries, women do not have access to safe abortion care: abortion is legal in only 28 percent of all countries in the world and only 15 percent of countries in the developing world. (1) Many women who live in countries where abortion is legally available are unable to access a safe procedure, for myriad reasons, including a lack of knowledge about the legal status of abortion, lack of money to pay for the procedure, social stigma against abortion or, commonly, because they present for care too far along in pregnancy. Unsafe abortion is the second leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide and most unsafe abortions occur in developing countries. (2) Learning about women’s experiences, such as the barriers to accessing legal abortion care and whether they turn to unsafe abortion, would improve our understanding of the effect of restrictive abortion laws on women’s health in diverse legal, cultural and socioeconomic settings.
We have partnered with researchers in Bangladesh, Colombia, Nepal, South Africa, and Tunisia—all countries where abortion is legally available—to measure the incidence and reasons for denial of abortion. Our early work showed that many women (2% to 45%) are denied legal abortion care in these countries (Gerdts et al., 2014). We then conducted interviews with women to investigate their experiences with denial and their decision-making following denial of care. Whether women pursue referrals and receive legal abortions elsewhere, whether they seek illegal abortions, or whether they continue the pregnancy is largely unknown. Our preliminary results have important implications for improving quality of service of abortion care, reducing denials of abortion care and improving referrals after abortion denial. We will be disseminating these findings through collaboration with in-country policymakers, providers and advocates, as well as international service provision and training organizations. Ultimately, the long term goal of the project is to launch a multi-country study to compare the consequences of legal abortion, illegal abortion, and carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term in a variety of settings.
Caitlin Gerdts, PhD, Senior Associate at Ibis Reproductive Health, serves as an advisor on the Global Turnaway Studies.
Global Turnaway Study International Collaborators
Dr. Selma Hajri
Groupe Tawhida BenCheikh
Publication: 'I felt the world crash down on me': Experiences of women denied legal abortion in Colombia. (under review at International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health)