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On International Day of the Girl, Ipas recognizes need for youth-specific abortion care

Thursday, October 11, 2012

girls

Today marks the first-ever International Day of the Girl, designated by the United Nations to foster global commitment to improving girls’ lives.

Advocates around the world who campaigned to establish the day seek to advance the UN Millennium Development Goals related to girls’ and women’s equality and rights—such as the rights to education and to health care. With the largest population of young people in history—more than 1.7 billion young people aged 10-24 worldwide, according to the Population Reference Bureau—the need is greater than ever to ensure girls have access to education and health care, including access to sexual and reproductive health care and accurate information on the topic.

“Girls continue to suffer the majority of sexual violence, and pregnancy and childbirth-related complications—including from unsafe abortion—are a leading cause of death among adolescent girls,” explains Evelina Borjesson, Ipas youth consultant. In fact, unsafe abortion affects girls and young women disproportionately: Adolescent girls aged 10-19 make up 70 percent of all hospitalizations from unsafe abortion complications.

Abortion care for young women: A training toolkit is an Ipas resource that offers guidance to health-care professionals on providing safe abortion care specially tailored for young women aged 10-24.

“We wanted to ensure that all providers and other health-system professionals trained by Ipas would be skilled in—and willing to provide—high-quality, appropriate abortion care for all women independent of age,” says Borjesson, who helped develop the training toolkit. “Globally, there really were no resources on comprehensive abortion care for young women, and we realized that Ipas was uniquely positioned to fill this gap.”

While women of all ages need compassionate, respectful and personalized abortion care, young women can be particularly vulnerable and may face more formidable obstacles to accessing reproductive health services.

“A pregnant 14-year-old is very different than a pregnant 26-year-old,” explains Alice Mark, Ipas senior clinical advisor. “It is critical to help providers understand the rights of girls and young women and to establish abortion care that is sensitive to their needs—and that recognizes the often daunting journey girls have taken in order to seek care.”

Since the toolkit’s publication in 2011, Ipas staff and partners around the world have used it to train health professionals to provide safe abortion care, and to educate medical and nursing students on the specific sexual and reproductive health-care needs of girls and young women.

“The toolkit is very adaptable, and so educators are able to tailor sections of the toolkit to meet their training needs,” says Cecilia Espinoza, Ipas youth associate. “In addition to training health-care workers, we are also using activities in the toolkit to help groups of young people talk about barriers to safe abortion care and how those affect youth in their communities.”

Girls and young women often do not have access to—or utilize—safe abortion care, even where it is legal, due to myriad barriers such as lack of knowledge of services, stigma about sexuality and abortion (especially for unmarried women), judgmental treatment by health-care providers, high cost of services, and concerns about privacy and confidentiality. By addressing all these potential barriers, Ipas’s toolkit aims to raise awareness among health-system professionals and help them find ways to make safe abortion care more accessible for girls and young women in their communities.

The bottom line, according to Borjesson: “When a girl wants or needs to terminate her pregnancy, she has the same right as any other woman to safe, respectful and appropriate abortion care.”

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