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In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), restrictive abortion laws, limited medical resources, and high costs – all heightened by two decades of conflict – have led to barriers in access to safe abortion.

Despite the legal restrictions, abortion is common in the DRC although national data is lacking. One study in Kinshasa estimated that 61% of pregnancies in 2016 were unintended, and there was a rate of 56 abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 49.

An estimated 88% of abortions in Middle Africa are unsafe. To better understand the barriers of access to and use of post-abortion care in North and South Kivu, DRC, researchers explored community perceptions of women who terminated a pregnancy. They also wanted to better understand attitudes towards their use of post-abortion care.

The Conversation found that initial reactions towards abortion were negative.

Participants said that women who terminated a pregnancy were prostitutes or murderers, and should face criminal repercussions. They said the women would face social costs in their community: abandonment by their husband or family, loss of marriage prospects, or judgement or gossip by community members.

Many participants believed that inducing an abortion could lead to infertility, injury, or death. 

However, there were displays of understanding and empathy when discussing the reasons why women have abortions. For example, despite negative perceptions, many participants expressed less judgement when they discussed reasons that motivated women to terminate a pregnancy.

Examples of these reasons included when a woman’s husband was unsupportive, unfaithful, or abusive. Many considered it understandable that a woman would induce abortion after rape: perhaps unsurprising, given the prevalence of conflict-related sexual violence in this area.

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