Provision of medical methods of abortion in facilities in India in 2015: A six state comparison

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Medical methods of abortion, MMA, has been legal in India since 2002. Guidelines stipulate that it should be administered by a provider or acquired via prescription. 1.2 million women having abortions in India use MMA acquired from health facilities [Singh, S., Shekhar, C., Acharya, R., Moore, A. M., Stillman, M., Pradhan, M. R., … Browne, A. (2018). The incidence of abortion and unintended pregnancy in India, 2015. The Lancet Global Health, 6(1), e111–e120. doi:10.1016/S2214-109X(17)30453-9]. We undertook a study of abortion in Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh in 2015 to better understand under what conditions and how MMA is being administered in facilities. The majority of facilities that provide MMA are in the private sector and located in urban areas. Most facilities offer MMA both at the facility and as a prescription, although some facilities only offer MMA as a prescription. A high proportion of facilities report that women typically take the medication at home. (Re)training providers in MMA protocols and counselling, increasing the number of facilities offering MMA, and stocking of the drugs would help improve women’s access to MMA and the information they need to be able to use this method safely. Key Messages: In the six states in our sample, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, 8% of abortions in 2015 were done using medical methods of abortion (MMA) acquired from health facilities. The majority of facilities that provide MMA in the six states are in the private sector and are located in urban areas. Health facilities in Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are comparatively better in their provision of MMA with Assam, Bihar, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh demonstrating poorer provision of MMA. There are many opportunities for improvement in the practices of MMA provision through improved training of providers, accessibility to the medications and better support of women using MMA.