Unsafe abortion remains a leading cause of maternal mortality globally. Many factors can influence women’s decisions around where to seek abortion care; however, little research has been done on abortion care decisions at a population-level in low-resource settings, particularly where abortion is legally restricted.
This analysis uses data from a 2019–2020 follow-up survey of 1144 women in six Nigerian states who reported an abortion experience in a 2018 cross-sectional survey. We describe women’s preferred and actual primary abortion care provider/location by distinguishing clinical, pharmacy/chemist, or other non-clinical providers or locations. We also examine factors that influence women’s decisions about where to terminate their pregnancy and identify factors hindering women’s ability to operationalize their preferences. We then examine the characteristics of women who were not able to use their preferred provider/location.
Non-clinical providers (55.0%) were more often used than clinical providers (45.0%); however, clinical providers were preferred by most women (55.6%). The largest discrepancies in actual versus preferred abortion provider/location were private hospitals (7.6% actual versus 37.2% preferred), government hospitals (4.3% versus 22.6%), chemists (26.5% versus 5.9%) and pharmacies (14.9% versus 6.6%). “Privacy/confidentiality” was the most common main reason driving women’s abortion provider/location choice (20.7%), followed by “convenience” (16.9%) and “recommended” by someone (12.3%), most often a friend (60.8%), although top reasons differed by type of provider/location. Cost and distance were the two most common reasons that women did not use their preferred provider/location (46.1% and 21.9%, respectively). There were no statistically significant differences in the sociodemographic characteristics between women who were able to use their preferred provider/location and those who were not able to implement their preferred choice, with the exception of state of residence.
These findings provide insights on barriers to abortion care in Nigeria, suggesting discretion is key to many women’s choice of abortion location, while cost and distance prevent many from seeking their preferred care provider/location. Results also highlight the diversity of women’s abortion care preferences in a legally restrictive environment.