“I really wanted to abort”: Desire for abortion, failed abortion and forced motherhood in South-Western Nigeria

Oluseye, Ayomide; Waterhouse, Philippa and Hoggart, Lesley (2021). “I really wanted to abort”: Desire for abortion, failed abortion and forced motherhood in South-Western Nigeria. Global Public Health (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17441692.2021.1944264

Abstract

Continued pregnancy after an abortion attempt is a likely outcome in countries where unsafe abortions prevail. Yet there is a paucity of literature on the consequences and implications of failed abortions. This study explored young women’s abortion decision-making, their experiences of failed abortion and its consequences in South-Western Nigeria. It presents findings from semi-structured interviews conducted with 14 women who had become unintentionally pregnant as unmarried teenagers, desired abortions, yet became mothers. Whilst the fear of the stigma associated with young unmarried motherhood gave rise to participants’ desire for abortion, restrictive abortion laws influenced their experiences and abortion decision-making. Participants who attempted an abortion failed and were forced to carry their unwanted pregnancies to term. They then experienced continued discrimination, forced motherhood, and a rejection of maternalism. Their experiences are analysed as responses to the complex interplay between social norms, abortion restrictions, stigma and forced motherhood. The paper makes a case for improving women’s reproductive autonomy in decision-making, - highlighting the social and mental health consequences of restricted access to abortion, and reinforce the importance of taking a holistic approach to addressing the sexual health of young women, by focusing not only on physical health but also on ensuring wellbeing.

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