Ending abortion stigma


Stigma shames and silences women who seek abortions—plus their health-care providers and anyone associated with abortion—and it contributes greatly to the incidence of unsafe abortion. Stigma leads some people to believe that abortion is a rare occurrence, or that only “certain types of women” have abortions. But we know from our work around the world that abortion stigma is global; women in every country—regardless of the legal status of abortion—are shamed for seeking or for having had an abortion.

At Ipas, we are focused on understanding and reducing abortion stigma and building evidence for how to do so. We have conducted research in Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Uganda and Zambia to measure stigma, and we have created stigma-reduction programs based on these findings. We also provide trainings to health-care professionals that help them overcome the stigma surrounding abortion and teach them about abortion’s legal status.

Building evidence on abortion stigma

Eradicating abortion stigma requires careful study and interventions based on evidence. Our work on this crucial topic began in 2009 with a conceptual framework and progressed to community assessments and focus group interviews to understand what abortion stigma is, how it is created and perpetuated, and how it affects women’s access to safe abortion care. In 2013, Ipas developed the Stigmatizing Attitudes, Beliefs and Actions Scale (SABAS) to measure abortion stigma at the individual and community levels, and we are now using this in various countries to inform our interventions.

Kristen Shellenberg

Meet the expert: Measuring abortion stigma

Ipas Senior Researcher Kristen Shellenberg collaborates with colleagues around the world to deepen our understanding of abortion stigma

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inroads: International Network for the Reduction of Abortion Discrimination and Stigma: A global community of practice

In 2013, Ipas co-convened 19 experts from 11 countries to set a course for future directions for abortion stigma research and programs. Following that, we launched inroads, a global community of practice and network to share strategies to understand and reduce abortion stigma across the globe. Ipas is the host organization for inroads and provides operational support and guidance to the network staff. Through hosting inroads, Ipas gains a deep connection to theories, practices, questions and problems generated and shared by diverse inroads members.