February 2016

Where do young people in Ghana get information about abortion?

In this short video, two volunteers from the Peer2Peer project at the University of Ghana discuss young people’s access to reliable information on their sexual and reproductive health.

Peer2Peer volunteer Dorcas explains that students “trust their friends to the highest level”, but that these friends may not have the correct information.

The Peer2Peer project works to ensure that these students have peers they can talk to and trust who have been trained to deliver accurate information and referrals.


Discussing abortion stigma at the International Conference on Family Planning

By Shambhavi Poudel, chairperson IPPF South Asia Regional Youth Network

The International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) started with a youth pre-conference delivering a message that young people were very much at the center of the conference. It was overwhelming to see 280 youth advocates from all around the world gathered in a room to talk about family planning and take this momentum further.

One issue talked about at the conference was abortion – laws and regulations, access and stigma. I attended various sessions on this topic. I learned about how peer education was being used in various countries to tackle abortion stigma. Since we at IPPF also use the peer education model it was great to hear of new and effective ways to use peer educators to increase both awareness and access. A presentation by Ipas highlighted the importance of young people in reducing abortion related stigma and increasing abortion services. Another interesting session was on faith and abortion. There was a discussion on how religion is used to create abortion stigma and to restrict women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services and how we as advocates can tackle those stigmas and the impact they have on women’s health and lives in all parts of the world.

In Nepal, where I am from, there are an estimated 3 million unwanted pregnancies each year but abortion stigma proves to be a major barrier to accessing abortion services. During the ICFP 2016, I not only met likeminded advocates but also heard of innovative ways to tackle abortion stigma from them. This conference has added greatly to my learning curve. It will benefit the work I do as a youth advocate on fighting abortion stigma and increasing access to abortion services.Priya and Shambhavi icfp

I also had the opportunity to be a part of the tent organized by the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crisis. In a real family tent, we tried to show the problems that young girls and women face during crisis situations through role plays. We tried to highlight the need of abortion in those settings where there are a high number of unwanted pregnancies, physical violence and rape.

ICFP was a great platform where we could talk about abortion, advocate for it and make changes happen!

Talking about abortion in India

By Rinu PK, a volunteer at FPAI

I am a youth volunteer at FPAI (Family Planning Association of India), Trivandrum branch, and a member of the IPPF YAG (Youth Advisory Group) on abortion stigma. I co-organised a campaign on the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal abortion on 28th September, and would like to share some of my experiences of conducting it.

I faced a lot of opposition from the people around me and surprisingly, even people working in the health system. Many found it a bad thing to talk about, some found it an unnecessary topic of discussion, and one even considered it a sin. When I asked one of my friends to circulate the campaign theme through social media she was ready for it initially and did post something. But the next morning she removed that post from her timeline and when I asked why she told me that after putting that post up she got negative responses from her friends and relatives that made her withdraw it. According to her, they found it very bad for an unmarried girl like her to put up a post like that. I got similar responses from many of my colleagues and friends in reasoning out why they cannot support me in spreading the campaign.

It is really appalling that well-educated youth in the state of Kerala which has the highest literacy rate in the country are so shrouded in abortion stigma. It was indeed a reality check for me as I myself being a native of the state, never imagined the stigma to be so strong and this hints at its deep-rootedness. Is education alone the answer to tackle abortion stigma? I guess more focused and more active participatory interventions are timely to ‘abort the stigma’.

The many branches of abortion stigma in Spain

By Marianne Forsey, youth intern at IPPF in London

I am currently interning with the Youth Team at IPPF whilst I study for a Masters in Gender and Law. In December last year I had the opportunity to visit the Federación de Planificación Familiar Estatal (F.P.F.E) in Spain to share knowledge, exchange experiences and find out more about their youth-led project ‘Yo Decido Cuándo’ (I Decide When).

When I met other young volunteers at F.P.F.E, I wanted to know more about how abortion stigma affects young people in Spain, and how it is manifested compared to in the UK. From our conversations, it became clear that abortion stigma has many branches.

There are particular cultural values that lead to the stigmatisation of abortion in Spain. Family is valued very highly in Spanish culture and becoming a mother is still regarded as a woman’s key role. Due to this idealisation of motherhood and fatherhood within society, abortion can be misconceived as a threat to these values. Furthermore, Spain is traditionally a Catholic country, and religious messaging still has a strong influence on attitudes held within society. Talking about sexuality (and abortion) is therefore still a taboo.

Staff and volunteers at F.P.F.E told me that stigma is created through a lack of education, not only about abortion but about sexuality and sexual and reproductive health. As sexuality education is not a mandatory subject in Spain and there is no set standard of provision, the quality and content varies between schools. As a result, sexuality education tends to be decontextualized and focuses on contraception above all else, rather than as part of a comprehensive and holistic programme which connects sexuality, sexual health and reproduction. A lack of formal education and a reluctance to discuss abortion in general means that young people are not informed about the legal status of abortion in Spain, nor what the medical procedure itself entails. Without this education, they are unsure about where to go for advice or what they would do if they needed an abortion. F.P.F.E has noted that this absence of knowledge creates a fear around abortion and allows stigmatising myths to circulate.

In recent years, there has been a lack of consensus amongst Spanish political parties about the law on abortion, and proposed legal reforms have become a topic of debate in the media. F.P.F.E has noticed that anti-choice campaigners have used this period to gain greater publicity and media coverage. The conflicting messages in the public debates create a stigmatising environment and have left the general public confused about the legal status of abortion in Spain. Although the abortion law is fairly liberal, there has been one recent amendment which affects young people in particular. Since September 2015, 16-17 year olds requiring an abortion must inform their parent or legal guardian and gain their consent. In practice, this means that the parent or guardian must accompany the young person to their consultations. This amendment does not fulfil young people’s right to confidential sexual and reproductive health services, and creates another barrier for young people’s access to abortion services.

Through our conversations it became evident that, as in all societies, there are many different branches to abortion stigma in Spain. Cultural values, religious messages, a lack of education, polarised media debates, political and legal inconsistency can all affect society’s attitudes towards abortion. F.P.F.E’s ‘Yo Decido Cuándo’ project combats abortion stigma using many branches to educate and inform young people about their rights.

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