Spain’s project ‘YoDecidoCuando’ (I Decide When), aims to inform and empower young women by providing workshops, disseminating educational materials and working closely with clinics to improve quality of care and to accompany young women seeking abortions.

My experience of working on the ‘I Decide When’ project

by Lucía Pérez, young volunteer at FPFE in Spain

When we were presented with the opportunity to carry out this ambitious project, I thought about the magnitude that it could acquire, because from the very beginning I saw beyond what the project itself involved.

In this respect, and taking into account the available budget, both I and the rest of the project’s organising team proposed a program of activities that would allow us to continue them in the future, integrating them into the Youth Centre’s daily operations.

That’s why I think the project has made a great impact, and will continue to do so, as we continue to carry out all the proposed activities, and are seeing very a positive response from the community.

At the individual level I must say that what this project has given me, as a person and a professional serving people in the field of sexuality, is much more than what I was able bring to it. I have been able to see for myself the teamwork capacity all of us working at the Youth Centre have, and I have incorporated, almost automatically, all the values that this project upheld (including shining a light on the stigmatisation of abortion, so that it can be eradicated, and the need to engage the general population in political efforts in order to reach political groups directly and present them with the necessary changes, at the legal and institutional levels). And I have been able to bring to bear my passion for people and my desire for change towards a more just society, respectful of all people.

As weaknesses of the project I would cite the lack of time to carry out some activities; more specifically, the training courses for peers. Though having done several, we would have liked to do more, and with more people, to create a broader and more solid base. In this area we continue to train peers, and will continue to do so even after the project’s scheduled end date.

Finally, I would like to say that I think that these kinds of projects are absolutely necessary, and I really believe in the ability of the teams trained at the Youth Centre to carry them out, because we do it with enthusiasm, motivation for change, and a desire to work.


Check out our youth-led projects in Ghana, Palestine, Spain, Macedonia and Nepal

In 2015, young people in IPPF Member Associations were asked to create projects which would tackle the issue of abortion stigma in their communities. Small grants were awarded to promising projects submitted by young people in Ghana, Palestine, Spain, Macedonia and Nepal. Read this for more information about what these projects set out to do, their methods and the results.

‘Yo Decido Cuándo’, arming young people against stigma

by Marianne Forsey, youth intern at IPPF Central Office

This illustration, which was created by one of the young volunteers on the ‘Yo Decido Cuándo’ project in Spain, features on all of the publicity and information materials. The young woman stands strong and defiant in the face of the threatening tentacles. If the tentacles represent the many of branches of abortion stigma that young women face in Spain, then the sword represents the tools that they need in order to fight this stigma.spain logo

As education is a key tool for changing attitudes, the ‘Yo Decido Cuándo’ project has helped young people tackle abortion stigma by providing myth-busting and empowering education workshops. The young volunteers have facilitated over 50 sexuality education workshops and have offered a training programme for peer educators, as they believe that young people will be able to disseminate the information more widely and most effectively amongst their peers.

With a recent amendment to the Spanish abortion law which requires parental consent for 16-17 year olds, it seems that politicians are out of touch with young people. In order to get young people’s voices heard in the political sphere, the ‘Yo Decido Cuándo’ project asked young people to write messages to politicians on postcards stating what they want to change in relation to sexual and reproductive rights in Spain. Young people felt empowered to have the opportunity to express their opinions to politicians and the most common response was that they demanded better sexuality education. The volunteers took these postcards to meetings with political parties in the run up to elections in order to remind politicians of their duty to represent young people and listen to their demands. This branch of the project educated politicians on young people’s sexual and reproductive rights and enabled young people to participate in the political sphere.

Given that young women who seek an abortion in Spain can face stigma in many ways, ‘Yo Decido Cuándo’ decided to offer an accompaniment service to support those young women who might not be able to take a close friend or family member to their clinic appointments. The accompaniment service has allowed F.P.F.E’s young people’s centre and the local clinics to provide more integrated sexual health and abortion services for young people. As a result of this collaborative work, the young people’s centre is able to offer more personalised referrals to local clinics, and the clinics are able to refer young people back to the centre for further advice about contraception and any questions relating to sexuality. Young women are encouraged to take a follow up appointment with the young people’s centre in order to evaluate the services they received. This ensures that young women are supported at every point throughout their experience of the services and tackles the stigma surrounding abortion services.


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.

“I decide when”

by Nieves Lara and Lucía Pérez, youth project coordinators at Federación de Planificación Familiar de España (FPFE) 

In Spain, most young people have their first sexual experience without having access to the information, sexuality education and youth friendly services they need. This can result in negative experiences of sexuality, risks of STIs and HIV, unintended pregnancies and, as a result, abortions.

Here in Madrid, with more than two million young people under 29, the abortion rate is the highest in Spain. In 2013, 1.5 in every 100 women terminated a pregnancy.

Although these figures show a clear need to improve the services regarding sexual and reproductive rights (especially in relation to sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health care), we find that the general opinion of citizens about the responsibility of those figures fall directly on women. This is just one symptom of the stigma associated with abortion, a reflection of the misinformation of the general population about the real needs of women (especially those who are most vulnerable, such as young women) regarding sexual and reproductive health.

Therefore, we believe in the need to implement a project like ours, where the main goal is to help fight the stigma that has pursued women who decide to have abortions. “I DECIDE WHEN” aims to eliminate the negative myths surrounding this topic through various activities sharing accurate information about abortion and to convey the idea among young people that the decision of when to become a mother is a right of women, including young women.

As the project continues we will:

Deliver a training course aimed at young peers to offer information on sexual and reproductive rights and the current law in Spain regarding abortion.

– Design and distribute materials (brochures and posters) with information on abortion including recent changes to the law.

– Create a blog with information on abortion, sexuality education, sexual and reproductive rights, etc. including videos, news, meetings, courses and opinions.

– Deliver a total of 50 sexuality education workshops in different organizations (schools, youth centers, universities, etc.) where we will discuss, among other issues, abortion and social stigma.

– Work in coordination with abortion clinics, surveying young women who have had abortions, to assess their satisfaction with the process and evaluating the resources they have counted on during it. We will also offer to accompany young women to the clinic..

– Collect the concerns and proposals of young people regarding sexuality education and sexual and reproductive rights through postcards and suggestion boxes. We will also have meetings with young decision makers of different political parties, in order to extend those concerns and proposals.

Young person sending a message to politicians.
Young person sending a message to politicians.

With all these actions we hope to create a network able to broadcast on sexual and reproductive rights and to contribute to the progressive elimination of stigma on abortion, especially regarding young women.

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