Abortion stigma affects women and girls, abortion providers, reproductive rights advocates and communities. Although abortion is a common experience around the world, it is still largely stigmatised. Negative attitudes and beliefs about abortion may act as barriers to accessing safe services and can make it difficult for people to talk about their experiences of abortion. This can be very isolating, and may force people to continue unwanted pregnancies or to seek unsafe abortion.
Since 2011 the David & Lucile Packard Foundation has supported IPPF to implement a range of initiatives to investigate and address abortion stigma. Find out more about the main activities, outcomes and learning from the first phase of this programme, and the next steps emerging from it.
It is often young people who are most severely affected by abortion stigma, and who are most at risk of suffering health complications as a result of unsafe abortion. Since 2014 IPPF has delivered a project focused on abortion stigma as it affects young people’s access to services, with targeted work in our Member Associations in Benin, Burkina Faso, India and Pakistan.
This builds on previous initiatives and includes:
- Implementing individual, community and clinic-based interventions in the four countries where abortion stigma research was conducted under the previous grant. Abortion stigma at the community level will be measured at the beginning and end of each project using an adapted version of the Stigmatizing Attitudes, Beliefs and Actions Scale (SABAS) developed by Ipas
- Developing global guidance and tools to improve abortion messaging to ensure abortion is integrated into peer educator training and better raise awareness of abortion-related services to young people
- Building capacity of youth advocates to speak out on the right to access abortion services
- Generating and sharing of evidence and good practices on addressing abortion stigma
In addition to the abortion stigma work supported by the Packard Foundation, the IPPF Western Hemisphere Region (WHR) has been conducting a research study in collaboration with Ibis Reproductive Health to better understand the effects that the provision of abortion-related services have on providers’ and clients’ perceptions and experiences of stigma. This research has been conducted in four countries with different legal contexts and varying degrees of access to services: the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Colombia, and Argentina. WHR is also working with the University of Michigan to pilot facilitated group workshops to reduce stigma and foster resilience among abortion service providers in Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico and Peru.
Through this project IPPF has created a range of tools and resources to support understanding of abortion stigma and to increase the capacity of our Member Associations to advocate for safe abortion, and to provide non-stigmatising education and information.
- How to talk about abortion: A guide for journalists, editors and media outlets encourages accurate reporting of the facts about abortion, and honest portrayals of abortion as part of real people’s lives and relationships.
- How to educate about abortion: A guide for peer educators, trainers and teachers is a comprehensive guide providing the rationale for teaching about abortion issues, as well a number of practical activities for doing so. The accompanying short animation distills this advice into just two minutes!
- How to talk about abortion: A guide to rights-based messaging is designed to help individuals and organizations think about the language and images they use to communicate about abortion and offers best practice tips. Again, a short animation has been created to share these tips further
- Our Member Associations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, Ghana, and Pakistan have shared best practices for improving young people’s access to safe abortion services. These feature strategies based on: creating a ‘buddy system’ for young people accessing services, working with educational establishments, using social media, and youth friendly spaces respectively.
- In 2015, young people from IPPF Member Associations in Spain, Nepal, Macedonia, Ghana and Palestine were awarded small grants to support projects focused on tackling abortion stigma. Read more about these youth-led projects.
- The ‘Youth Against Abortion Stigma’ website features blogposts from young IPPF volunteers around the world.
In 2017, young people from IPPF Member Associations in Guinea, Kenya, Nepal, Puerto Rico, Sierra Leone and Venezuela were awarded small grants to support youth-led projects focused on tackling abortion stigma.