Abortion in two francophone African countries: a study of whether women have begun to use misoprostol in Benin and Burkina Faso

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Objectives: This study aimed to document the means women use to obtain abortions in the capital cities of Benin and Burkina Faso, and to learn whether or not use of misoprostol has become an alternative to other methods of abortion, and the implications for future practice. Study design: We conducted in-depth, qualitative interviews between 2014 and 2015 with 34 women – 21 women in Cotonou (Benin) and 13 women in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) – about their pathways to abortion. To obtain a diverse sample in terms of socio-demographic characteristics, we recruited the women through our own knowledge networks, in health facilities where women are treated for unsafe abortion complications, and in schools in Benin. Results: The 34 women had had 69 abortions between them. Twenty-five of the women had had 37 abortions in the previous 5 years; the other abortions were 5–20 years before. Pathways to abortion were very different in the two cities. Lengthy and difficult pathways with unsafe methods often led to complications in Ougadougou, whereas most Cotonou women went to small, private health centers. Six of the 37 abortions in the previous 5 years involved misoprostol use, and were all among educated women with significant social and economic capital and personal contact with clinicians. Conclusions: Use of misoprostol for abortion has appeared in both Cotonou and Ougadougou in the past 5 years. Evidence that the use of misoprostol for abortion occurred among women with the most access to information and resources in this study suggests that increased awareness of and use of misoprostol in both countries is likely in the coming years. Implications: Although no pharmaceutical company that produces misoprostol has as yet tried to obtain marketing authorization in either Burkina Faso or Benin for gynecological-obstetric indications, making its use more potential than actual for the time being, international advocacy for access to medical abortion is growing rapidly and is likely to lead to many changes in this picture in the coming years.




Baxerres, C., Boko, I., Konkobo, A., Ouattara, F., & Guillaume, A. (2018). Abortion in two francophone African countries: a study of whether women have begun to use misoprostol in Benin and Burkina Faso. Contraception, 97(2), 130–136. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.contraception.2017.10.011

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