August 2017

Doing more for less: Identifying opportunities to expand public sector access to safe abortion in South Africa through budget impact analysis

Lince-Deroche N, Harries J, Constant D, Morroni C, Pleaner M, Fetters T, Grossman D, Blanchard K, Sinanovic E. Doing more for less: Identifying opportunities to expand public sector access to safe abortion in South Africa through budget impact analysis. Contraception. 2017 Aug 3. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2017.07.165. [Epub ahead of print]

Objective(s): To estimate the costs of public-sector abortion provision in South Africa and to explore the potential for expanding access at reduced cost by changing the mix of technologies used.

Study Design: We conducted a budget impact analysis using public sector abortion statistics and published cost data. We estimated the total costs to the public health service over ten years, starting in South Africa's financial year 2016/17, given four scenarios: 1) holding service provision constant, 2) expanding public sector provision, 3) changing the abortion technologies used (i.e. the method mix), and 4) expansion plus changing the method mix.

Results: The public sector performed an estimated 20% of the expected total number of abortions in 2016/17; 26% and 54% of all abortions were performed illegally or in the private sector respectively. Costs were lowest in scenarios where method mix shifting occurred. Holding the proportion of abortions performed in the public-sector constant, shifting to more cost-effective service provision (more first-trimester services with more medication abortion and using the combined regimen for medical induction in the second trimester) could result in savings of $28.1 million in the public health service over the ten-year period. Expanding public sector provision through elimination of unsafe abortions would require an additional $192.5 million.

Conclusions: South Africa can provide more safe abortions for less money in the public sector through shifting the methods provided. More research is needed to understand whether the cost of expanding access could be offset by savings from averting costs of managing unsafe abortions.

Implications: South Africa can provide more safe abortions for less money in the public sector through shifting to more first-trimester methods, including more medication abortion, and shifting to a combined mifepristone plus misoprostol regimen for second trimester medical induction. Expanding access in addition to method mix changes would require additional funds.