Youth and abortion guidelines

Youth and abortion: key strategies and promising practices for increasing young women’s access to abortion services

promotes safe abortion access as part of a package of SRHR information and care

inspires service providers, advocates and policy makers to eradicate barriers

presents tried and tested techniques that can be adapted for a range of programmes

explores public health and rights perspectives, to support abortion access

encourages and describesa harm-reduction model for legally restrictive settings

"There are a whole host of barriers – from cost, to cultural norms and stigma, to service provider attitudes – which prevent young women from accessing timely life-saving and life-enhancing abortion and post-abortion care."

Legal abortion is a safe medical procedure, but where it is illegal it is often unsafe and results in high levels of complications and mortality.

The right to abortion relates to many established human rights, but young women face specific obstacles to accessing safe abortion including: concerns about their capacity and ability to consent;  additional stigma associated with being sexually active especially for unmarried women; restrictive laws, or restrictive interpretation of laws; and lack of youth-friendliness.

Integrating with other youth programmes, working with staff to increase their commitment to improving access, focusing on confidentiality and autonomy, using the harm-reduction model and supporting peer outreach are some of the promising practices that improve access.


  • a case study of a harm reduction approach to abortion in countries where it is illegal
  • examples of work in China and Bangladesh
  • a table of recommended actions with links to relevant resources broken down into:
  1. institutional policy and strengthening
  2. youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health service provision
  3. information, education and communication
  4. advocacy
  • youth survey questions
  • health professionals' interview guide
  • guideline development process
  • online resources for the rights argument
  • key statistics and resources for health arguments