Journal Article

Experiences of unmarried young abortion-seekers in Bihar and Jharkhand, India

While several studies have documented the prevalence of unprotected pre-marital sex among young people in India, little work has explored one of its likely consequences, unintended pregnancy and abortion. This paper examines the experiences of 26 unmarried young abortion-seekers (aged 15-24) interviewed in depth as part of a larger study of unmarried abortion-seekers at clinics run by an NGO in Bihar and Jharkhand. Findings reveal that recognition of the unintended pregnancy was delayed for many and many who suspected so further delayed acknowledging it. Once recognised, most confided in the partner and, for the most part, partners were supportive; a significant minority, including those who had experienced forced sex, did not have partner support and delayed the abortion until the second trimester of pregnancy. Family support was absent in most cases; where provided, it was largely to protect the family reputation. Finally, unsuccessful attempts to terminate the pregnancy were made by several young women, often with the help of partners or family member. Findings call for programmes for young women and men, their potential partners, parents and families and the health system that will collectively enable unmarried young women to obtain safe abortions in a supportive environment.