This paper investigates the potential importance of women’s autonomy in the reproductive healthcare-seeking behavior of women in Ethiopia. We hypothesized that women’s autonomy influences their reproductive healthcare-seeking behavior independent of maternal socio-demographic characteristics. We tested this hypothesis using data from the 2005 Ethiopian Demographic and Health survey (EDHS). Women’s autonomy was measured by women’s participation in domestic decision making, attitudes toward wife beating, attitudes toward refusing sex with husband, and whether women said that getting permission to seek medical care is a big problem.
Our analysis shows that women’s autonomy is an important influence on their reproductive healthcare-seeking behavior. Women’s participation in domestic decision making is strongly associated with ever-use of family planning, but not with use of antenatal care, after controlling for socio-demographic factors. In the multivariate model the lack of association between women’s participation in decision making and antenatal care is mediated by factors such as women’s education and place of residence. Women’s attitudes toward refusing sex with husband, an indicator of gender-role attitudes, and the ease of getting permission to seek medical
help are significantly associated with both ever-use of contraception and use of antenatal care services, after controlling for the effects of other socio-demographic variables.
These findings suggest that women’s autonomy at the household level, including freedom of movement, is important to their use of reproductive health services. Moreover, for both outcome variables, women’s education, paid employment, urban residence, exposure to media, and wealth appear as important predictors. The findings highlight the need in Ethiopia for
initiatives to improve women’s autonomy, to attain both gender equality and wider use of health services. Moreover, improving women’s education and employment can play a dual role in enhancing women’s autonomy and