Academic journal article Population

The Role of Abortion in the Fertility Transition in Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) during the 1990s

Academic journal article Population

The Role of Abortion in the Fertility Transition in Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) during the 1990s

Article excerpt

Fertility in most African countries has entered a phase of transition whose rhythm, intensity and determinants are variable. Of the 31 subSaharan African countries where Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) were conducted in 1990-2000, fertility stood at between 4 and 4.9 children per woman in 10 countries, between 5 and 5.9 children in 11 countries, and over 6 children in the remaining 10 countries, the highest level (7.2 children) being observed in Niger. Fertility is lower in North Africa, where it is below 4 children.

Fertility has declined more among populations that have benefited from an improvement and modernization of their living conditions. Urbanization, education, access to the media, and health improvements are all powerful factors influencing these changes (Vimard et al., 2001). An "increasing diversification of African reproductive regimes" is appearing across and even within countries, and is manifested in large disparities between regions or socio-economic groups (Tabutin and Schoumaker, 2001), with fertility decline being greatest among urban and educated groups (Cosio-Zavala, 2000).

The divergence of trends even within the various populations raises questions about the role of each determinant of the demographic transition. Traditional birth spacing behaviour based on postpartum abstinence and breastfeeding is important in Kenya, Ghana, Senegal and Sudan, where it accounts for between 37% and over 44% of the fertility reduction (Vimard et al, 2001; Jolly and Gribble, 1996). Delay in first marriage plays a preponderant role in some countries, while in others modern contraception is the main factor behind the change, notably in the Englishspeaking African countries where governments have actively supported family planning programmes (Mboup, 2000).

Studies of fertility decline, particularly in countries where contraceptive use remains low but where women express a demand for regulation of their fertility, suggest that other factors are present, prominent among which is abortion (United Nations, 2001). In some countries and more specifically in some cities of Africa, "fertility has declined rapidly, but without widespread use of contraception" (Tabutin and Schoumaker, 2001). Although abortion is one of the components of the Bongaarts model, which is frequently used to measure the contribution of the different variables in fertility reduction, few studies have incorporated it fully. The role of abortion in this trend is in effect assumed, but it is rarely quantified due to the lack of available data on the subject (Desgrées du Loû et al., 1999; Locoh, 1994). Abortion is illegal in the majority of African countries and since few studies have been conducted on the phenomenon it remains poorly understood. However, studies on the complications arising from abortion and on the maternal mortality that is attributable to it have highlighted the extent of the practice (Thonneau et al., 2002; World Health Organization et al., 1998; Benson et al., 1996). Other research has examined abortion from the angle of the growing burden on hospitals of complications arising from illicit abortions (Huntington et al., 1998). The frequent recourse to abortion in some African capital cities, particularly among young women, has already been established (Desgrées du Loû et al., 1999; Guillaume, 2003; Konate et al., 1999; Locoh, 1994).

In an African context where the modalities of the demographic transition are varied, this article studies the extent of abortion practices in the particular case of the population of the city of Abidjan. Although a process of fertility decline has recently got under way in Côte d'Ivoire, the phenomenon is much more marked in urban zones, and especially in Abidjan, than in the rest of the country. Between the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) of 1994 and 1998-1999, the total fertility rate fell by 0.5 children per woman for the country as a whole, from 5.7 to 5.2 children per woman (Table 1). …

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