"You Must First Save Her Life": Community Perceptions towards Induced Abortion and Postabortion Care in North and South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"You Must First Save Her Life": Community Perceptions towards Induced Abortion and Postabortion Care in North and South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo Sara E. Casey, et al.; Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, 2019
In addition to legal and economic obstacles to safe abortion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), widespread social stigma also discourages women who have abortions from seeking postabortion care. Through multiple focus groups, with a total 246 participants, the authors found that initial perceptions of women who have induced abortion were almost universally negative; attitudes tended to become more nuanced when discussing specific reasons that cause women to seek abortions. Both men and women initially perceived abortion as criminal and, as one female participant put it, those who obtain one "should be in prison without exception," though DRC laws allow the procedure in cases of rape/incest and fetal impairment, and to preserve the life and physical/ mental health of women. Many also viewed abortion as immoral and unfeminine: "[Family members] can no longer consider her as a woman in the home." Women who had an abortion were characterized as prostitutes, sorceresses and murderers who pose a threat to the safety of all in the community.
However, when discussing potential motivations for seeking an abortion, participants were far more empathetic. Given the prevalence of sexual violence in the DRC, most participants believed that a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape should be able to obtain an abortion. Additionally, domestic violence and poverty were considered potentially acceptable reasons for seeking abortion. Regardless of their views on the issue, there was near-unanimous agreement that if a woman has induced abortion, they would be personally willing to help her obtain post-abortion care. The authors conclude that these attitudes indicate an openness to reducing abortion stigma and liberalizing abortion laws, if healthcare providers and community leaders address misperceptions and encourage more-empathetic views of women who seek abortion.