Reprod Health. 2022 Dec 27;19(1):231. doi: 10.1186/s12978-022-01518-3.
BACKGROUND: Despite the negative impact of unsafe abortions on women’s health and rights, the degree of abortion safety remains strikingly undocumented for a large share of abortions globally. Data on how women induce abortions (method, setting, provider) are central to the measurement of abortion safety. However, health-facility statistics and direct questioning in population surveys do not yield representative data on abortion care seeking pathways in settings where access to abortion services is highly restricted. Recent developments in survey methodologies to study stigmatized / illegal behaviour and hidden populations rely on the fact that such information circulates within social networks; however, such efforts have yet to give convincing results for unsafe abortions.
OBJECTIVE: This article presents the protocol of a study whose purpose is to apply and develop further two network-based methods to contribute to the generation of reliable population-level information on the safety of abortions in contexts where access to legal abortion services is highly restricted.
METHODS: This study plans to obtain population-level data on abortion care seeking in two Health and Demographic Surveillance Systems in urban Kenya and rural Burkina Faso by applying two methods: Anonymous Third-Party Reporting (ATPR) (also known as confidantes’ method) and Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS). We will conduct a mixed methods formative study to determine whether these network-based approaches are pertinent in the study contexts. The ATPR will be refined notably by incorporating elements of the Network Scale-Up Method (NSUM) to correct or account for certain of its biases (transmission, barrier, social desirability, selection). The RDS will provide reliable alternative estimates of abortion safety if large samples and equilibrium can be reached; an RDS multiplex variant (also including social referents) will be tested.
DISCUSSION: This study aims at documenting abortion safety in two local sites using ATPR and RDS. If successful, it will provide data on the safety profiles of abortion seekers across sociodemographic categories in two contrasted settings in sub-Saharan Africa. It will advance the formative research needed to determine whether ATPR and RDS are applicable or not in a given context. It will improve the questionnaire and correcting factors for the ATPR, improve the capacity of RDS to produce quasi-representative data on abortion safety, and advance the validation of both methods.