A study carried out by Nigerian researchers shows that unwanted pregnancy and induced abortion among teenagers living on the streets are high, especially in Lagos and Osun states.
The study, done by researchers from Babcock University, Ogun State, and Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun State, was published on the BMC Health Services Research Open access portal.
The researchers discovered that many street-involved teenagers are school dropouts, noting that the increased rate of unintended pregnancies among them is related to inadequate education.
The researchers found that many street teenagers aged between 15 and 19 years, who became pregnant, are significantly less likely to abort.
According to the researchers, a large proportion of female street-involved adolescents (SIAs) are sexually active with a high incidence of unintended pregnancy and a high rate of unsafe abortion.
While stressing that access of female SIAs to education can reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy, the study found that induced abortion was due to multiple sexual partners, rejection of pregnancy by a sexual partner, and poor financial status.
After the survey, the researchers found that of the 424 female SIAs, 270 reported having had sex. 64 respondents had a history of pregnancy, of which 38 gave a history of induced abortion of the last pregnancy.
The study also found that SIAs aged 15 to 19 were much less likely to terminate their pregnancies, and that a history of school attendance dramatically decreased the risk of becoming pregnant.
Additionally, among the sexually active SIAs, unexpected pregnancy and induced abortion were frequent occurrences.
Many participants were familiar with the procedures and locations for inducing abortions.
The researchers added, “The study highlights that the factors associated with an unwanted pregnancy and those associated with induced abortion differ among female SIAs, 10–19 years old in South-west Nigeria.
“The prevalence of unwanted pregnancy and induced abortion is high. These findings highlight the need for further studies to identify the peculiar needs of SIAs, to help inform policy formulations and program development that will address these needs in Nigeria.
“A large proportion of SIAs are sexually active with a high incidence of unintended pregnancy and a high rate of unsafe abortion. Access of female SIAs to education can reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy. Attention needs to be paid to how SIAs can have access to contraception.”
Abortion in Nigeria is illegal and carries a heavy jail sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment unless performed to save the life of the woman.
Section 230 of the Criminal Code Act, Chapter 77 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, explicitly spelt out punitive measures for anyone that supplies drugs or instruments to procure abortion.
It stated, “Any person who unlawfully supplies to or procures for any person anything whatever, knowing that it is intended to be unlawfully used to procure the miscarriage of a woman, whether she is or is not with child, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years.”