Comprehensive sexuality education—that includes information about abortion—is essential for young people to be able to make safe, fully informed decisions about their health. But the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping millions of youth out of the classroom this year, and that in turn is profoundly impacting young people’s ability to access the sexual and reproductive health services they need.
A new Ipas toolkit—The Full Story: Advocating for comprehensive sexuality education that includes abortion—helps advocates develop effective strategies to build support for comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). Available in English, Spanish and French, the toolkit may be especially helpful to advocates and organizations working to implement innovative virtual or socially distanced programs that respond to young people’s needs during the pandemic.
“Our current reality demands that we design and roll out evidence-based CSE programs with a focus on human rights and gender and with a strong link to sexual and reproductive health services in communities,” says Cecilia Espinoza, Ipas senior advocacy advisor. “This new toolkit should prove useful for those working to overcome the unprecedented barriers to care that youth are facing during this global crisis.”
Sexual and reproductive health services and CSE for youth are often overlooked during emergencies, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Some figures point to a potential 115 million more unintended pregnancies and three million more unsafe abortions around the world in low- and middle-income countries due to the pandemic. Young people will be disproportionately affected as they always face more barriers to care than adults.
What makes this toolkit useful?
A range of existing resources focus on advocacy for CSE or advocacy for expanding access to abortion. However, there is a gap in resources focused specifically on advocating for the inclusion of abortion within CSE programs.
This toolkit combines best practice in advocacy for CSE with information on how to specifically call for the inclusion of scientifically accurate content on sexual and reproductive health and rights, including abortion. It also includes entry points for integrating abortion content into national CSE programs based in the United Nations’ International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education.
“The toolkit focuses on how to advocate with governments to implement CSE, because if we want to see these programs at full scale—reaching as many young people as possible—we have to work with government,” Espinoza explains. “We think this toolkit can help organizations form strong coalitions to advocate for sexuality education programs that are really comprehensive.”
During the pandemic, Espinoza says this work is more important than ever. “As education systems worldwide are reimagining education during and after COVID-19, it’s clear CSE needs to be part of this conversation,” she says. “And governments need to think about how they’re going to ensure that all youth—those attending school and those who are not—have access to sexual and reproductive health information, education and services.”
Learn more about Ipas’s work to advance sexuality education that includes abortion.