Journal Article

Experience seeking abortion among unmarried young women in Bihar and Jharkhand, India: Delays and disadvantages

Studies suggest that the experiences of unmarried young women seeking abortion in India differ from those of their married counterparts, but the evidence is limited. Research was undertaken among nulliparous young women aged 15-24 who had abortions at the clinics of a leading NGO in Bihar and Jharkhand. Over a 14-month period in 2007-08, 246 married and 549 unmarried young abortion seekers were surveyed and 26 who were unmarried were interviewed in depth. Those who were unmarried were far more likely to report non-consensual sexual relations. As many as 25% of unmarried young women, compared to only 9% of married young women, had had a second trimester abortion. The unmarried were far more likely to report non-consensual sexual relations leading to pregnancy. They were also more likely to report such obstacles to timely abortion as failure to recognise the pregnancy promptly, exclusion from abortion-related decision-making, seeking confidentiality as paramount in selection of abortion facility, unsuccessful previous attempts to terminate the pregnancy, and lack of partner support. After controlling for background factors, findings suggest that unmarried young women who also experienced these obstacles were, compared to married young women, most likely to experience second trimester abortion. Programmes need to take steps to improve access to safe and timely abortion for unmarried young women.