Monrovia – The Ministry of Health (MoH) in collaboration with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), along with the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) and Guttmacher, has launched the findings of abortion incidence and severity of complications in Liberia.
The Liberia National Abortion Study, which focuses on measuring abortion, the magnitude of complications, cost, and quality of post-abortion care, released the report in Monrovia on Thursday, April 13, 2023, at the Corina Hotel in Sinkor, after two years of methodology abortion incidence and severity of related-complication study.
Deputy Minister and Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, Dr. Francis N. Kateh, officially received and launched the first incidence of abortion and severity of complications study report. He extolled the group for the initiative and promised to take the report to the Minister of Health to work with it. Dr. Kateh expressed excitement that Liberia, as a country, could officially launch such an initiative. He added that it is a milestone achievement because it now gives the country comprehensive data on abortion, despite it being long overdue.
According to him, Liberia has been struggling with the lack of scientific abortion records because of its illegal status, something he says causes most abortions to be done at home. He averred that with the findings, it will help the Ministry and partners to plan properly. Also speaking during the handing over and launch of the report, Clinton Health Access Initiative country director (CHAI), Dr. Moses Massaquoi, said unsafe abortion is the term used to describe a pregnancy termination performed by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment not in conformity with minimal medical standards or both.
The CHAI Country Director said unsafe abortion is among the top causes of maternal mortalities and other illnesses and that the treatment of abortion complications drains significant health system resources. Dr. Massaquoi noted that there is limited scientific information available on the context in which women seek unsafe abortion, the magnitude of the unsafe abortion problem, and resulting complications from such practice.
The study, which aimed at estimating the incidence and severity of abortion-related complications, was conducted across all regions and counties in Liberia from September 2021 – March 2022. According to the current laws in Liberia, abortion is permissible only under limited circumstances to save the life of a woman, preserve physical and mental health, in the case of rape, incest, and other felonious fetal impairment.
In the study report, about 38,779 induced abortions occurred in Liberia in 2021, resulting in an induced abortion rate of 30.7 per 1,000 women of reproductive age and an induced abortion ratio of 229 abortions per 1,000 live births. However, this is the first nationally representative study on the incidence of induced abortion in Liberia, and its findings will be crucial for effective planning, budgeting, and implementation of sexual and reproductive health interventions.
To address abortion-related complications in the country, the study recommends advanced legal and policy reforms that address the causes of unsafe abortion and unwanted pregnancies. It also recommends providing the enabling environment for access to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services for all women and girls of reproductive age. Additionally, it suggests expanding access to quality post-abortion care, including post-abortion contraception counseling and method provision at all health facility levels, which means strengthening the capacity of lower-level health facilities and mid-level care providers to provide quality care and community education and awareness on the dangers of unsafe abortion, existing legal status of abortion, and current access points of family planning methods in the country.