Buying safety: The economics of reproductive risk and abortion in Egypt

Sandra D. Lane, Jok Madut Jok, Mawaheb T. El-Mouelhy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This article examines the economics of abortion safety in Egypt. Under Egyptian law induced abortion is restricted to cases in which two physicians certify that the pregnancy presents a danger to the health or life of the mother. Despite this legal restriction, the available data indicate that abortion is quite widely practiced. Multifaceted strands of legal, religious, economic, and health care policy influence both discourse about and access to abortion in Egypt. Interviews with 18 Egyptian women who sought to terminate their pregnancies revealed a wide range of abortion methods that varied in both safety and cost. Three levels of safety were identified: (1) indigenous (wasfa baladi) methods were potentially the least safe; (2) biomedical abortions at clandestine clinics appeared safer than indigenous methods, but were not without risk; and (3) biomedical abortions administered by private gynecologists, were the most safe. Safety is expensive. Wealthy women can literally buy safety, while poor women's lack of financial resources put their lives at great risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1099
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 1998


  • Abortion
  • Egypt
  • Policy
  • Political economics
  • Reproductive health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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