Abortion stigma is global; women in every country—regardless of the legal status of abortion—are shamed for seeking or for having an abortion. This is discrimination, and it affects anyone associated with abortion: women who have had an abortion or who may seek one and providers of abortion care.
Stigma around abortion harms women. It prompts secrecy, silence and shame—all of which can lead to delayed care, increased risk and potentially life-threatening methods to end pregnancy.
It’s time to break the silence. In this video, three health-care providers and Ipas board members—Otobo Ujah from Nigeria, Jemima Dennis-Antwi from Ghana and Nozer Sheriar from India—share why they choose to speak openly about abortion care and the stigma they see in their professional lives.
Ipas @ FIGO 2015
Ipas shared this video on Oct. 5 at the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) World Congress in Vancouver. Partners and colleagues attended the video screening, including the current and incoming presidents of FIGO, who pledged their support for continued partnership with Ipas to end unsafe abortion and the stigma that often forces women to seek clandestine, unsafe abortions.
Ipas’s new president, John Hetherington, addressed attendees and recalled his own experience seeing abortion stigma at the community level. “In my career, I have met thousands of providers around the world. When we asked them their biggest concern they’d answer ‘Seeing women with life-threatening complications from unsafe abortion—because they don’t have good access to safe abortion.’”
“These on-the-ground providers were talking about a huge issue—one often neglected in the health systems and even in their communities,” he added.
Abortion stigma and how it relates to quality of care has been an area of focus for Ipas at the FIGO World Congress. On Oct. 4, Ipas and inroads co-hosted a technical meeting, “Ensuring access to quality abortion care: Confronting stigma and advancing women’s rights,” that included more than 70 people from 15 countries.
Blair Grant Darney, a panelist from Oregon Health & Science University, urged participants to see both technical and interpersonal quality as essential to women. “The ‘true north’ of quality care includes six elements,” she said, “safe, effective, efficient, equitable, timely and patient-centered.”
Candace Lew from Pathfinder talked about how adolescents are doubly stigmatized. “Adolescents’ right to self-determination is not really recognized in most places in the world,” she said.
At the end of the session, the more than 70 participants each shared commitments to fight abortion stigma in their practices, their communities, their advocacy work and their personal lives.
Please watch the video, share with colleagues and show your support. Break the silence. Stop the stigma.
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