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

A world free of abortion stigma is the vision driving the work of inroads, a network and global community of practice that grew out of a 2013 meeting on abortion stigma co-convened by Ipas. Inroads was launched following that meeting, with Ipas serving as its host and providing operational support. Today inroads is a network of scholars, advocates, health providers and donors representing 800 organizations from 95 countries, and operates as an independent organization. Ipas continues to work closely with the inroads community, as abortion stigma is a global phenomenon that requires concerted action to dismantle.