Tackling abortion stigma

Boy holding a sign "Keep abortion safe and legal".

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 here, about the effective strategies and learning over the course of this project.

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.

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.