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Abortion Stigma in West Africa and South Asia: Establishing Baseline Levels of Community Stigma

Abortion Stigma in West Africa and South Asia: Establishing Baseline Levels of Community Stigma

Stigma associated with abortion prevents the provision and uptake of abortion services globally. This study aimed to establish baseline levels of community abortion stigma before implementing interventions to address this stigma. 

Methods: International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) adapted the International Products Assistance Services (IPAS) – Stigmatizing Attitudes, Beliefs and Actions Scale (SABAS) to measure abortion stigma in project areas in Benin, Burkina Faso, India and Pakistan. The adapted scale had three sub-scales: negative stereotypes (9 items), exclusion and discrimination (6 items) and a new scale related to the stigmatisation of young women (7 items). Community members in the project areas were invited to participate via interview or self complete questionnaire in October and November 2014. Responses to each item were scored on a Likert scale of 1–5, with higher scores indicating higher levels of stigma. The maximum scale score possible was 110.

Results: A total of 770 surveys were completed; n = 200 from each of Benin, Burkina Faso and India and n = 170 from Pakistan, with most (76%) completed via interview. Just over half of respondents (54%) were female, with 85% aged under 40 years. The overall average score was 62.4 (standard deviation 12.6), with the highest average score found in Pakistan (66.2) and in respondents aged over 40 years (67.4). Average scores on the negative stereotypes sub-scale appeared higher in West Africa (Benin 32.3, Burkina Faso 30.1) compared to South Asia (India 24.5, Pakistan 28.9); with scores on the other two sub-scales appearing higher in Pakistan but similar in the other countries.

Conclusions: This study is one of the first few to provide a quantitative measure of abortion stigma; among the countries studied, Pakistan has the highest overall level of abortion stigma, and it appears that there are higher levels of negative stereotyping of women who have had abortion in West Africa compared to South Asia.

Speakers: Doortje Braeken
Areas of Interest / Categories: Community Therapy, Discrimination, Stigma