‘VCAT’ interventions effective at improving abortion knowledge and attitudes, study says

For more than a decade, Ipas has conducted workshops around the world to encourage health providers, policymakers and others to reflect on their values and attitudes toward abortion and consider the consequences when safe abortion services are not available to women.

These “values clarification and attitude transformation” (VCAT) workshops encourage participants to explore their assumptions about abortion and examine their role in assuring women’s safe access to abortion care. The World Health Organization recommends including such interventions in training programs for abortion providers, as a way to address the role that abortion stigma plays in preventing women from getting care they need.

A new study by Ipas finds that VCAT workshops are effective at improving participants’ “knowledge, attitudes and behavioral intentions related to abortion care,” especially among those who come to the workshops with the least knowledge and most negative attitudes about abortion.

Published in the journal Reproductive Health, the study analyzed pre- and post-workshop surveys of participants in 43 VCAT workshops conducted in 12 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Katherine L. Turner, former Ipas senior health systems advisor and co-author of Ipas’s VCAT toolkit, was lead author.

In addition to being integral to training for abortion providers, participation in VCAT interventions are also important for a range of stakeholders—such as policymakers, law enforcement officials, government health leaders and others—whose values and attitudes may be guided by “misinformation and unexamined, internalized social norms” about abortion, the authors note.

A physician who attended a VCAT workshop in Nicaragua, for instance, stated in an earlier Ipas report: “I came to the workshop with a lot of distrust, fearfully and with many doubts…The exercises made me aware of the fact that I was failing my clients and limiting or removing their opportunity for safe and high-quality care by doing what ‘I thought was right’…Two days after the workshop I was able to begin providing support to patients who requested my medical services, this time with more knowledge [and] humanity.”

Related Ipas resources

Coming soonAbortion attitude transformation: A values clarification toolkit for humanitarian audiences

Also forthcoming: A new edition of Abortion attitude transformation: A values clarification toolkit for global audiences

Ipas research generates new knowledge for the larger reproductive health and rights community. We also focus on targeted research to understand more about women’s needs and wants regarding reproductive health care and how they make decisions about contraception and abortion.

For more information, contact media@ipas.org

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