SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH MATTERS

From stigma to pride: health professionals and abortion policies in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires

by Sandra Salomé Fernández Vázquez, Josefina Brown   Full Text

Abstract
Abortion stigma is experienced not only by women but also by providers and health professionals in a wide range of legal contexts. This paper analyses interviews with providers who work in the public health system in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires, Argentina. A court ruling in 2012, FAL/12, changed the interpretation of abortion’s legal status, clarifying the decriminalisation of abortion in cases of rape, and also requiring public policies and procedures to speed up access to legal abortion. Between 2014 and 2017, we conducted 27 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with abortion providers in public facilities across healthcare services in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires. We found the way that health providers dealt with abortion stigma evolved over the course of time, as the abortion debate moved from the margins to the heart of political debate and public policies in Argentina between 2007 and 2017. Providers’ experiences changed as the social and legal context changed. FAL/12 – as a clear, legal ruling – was a landmark and turning point in the way health professionals in public health facilities conduct their activities, making it possible for them to move from providing silent and hidden abortion care, to acknowledging it with pride.

Abortion stigma is experienced not only by women but also by providers and health professionals in a wide range of legal contexts. This paper analyses interviews with providers who work in the public health system in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires, Argentina. A court ruling in 2012, FAL/12, changed the interpretation of abortion’s legal status, clarifying the decriminalisation of abortion in cases of rape, and also requiring public policies and procedures to speed up access to legal abortion. Between 2014 and 2017, we conducted 27 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with abortion providers in public facilities across healthcare services in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires. We found the way that health providers dealt with abortion stigma evolved over the course of time, as the abortion debate moved from the margins to the heart of political debate and public policies in Argentina between 2007 and 2017. Providers’ experiences changed as the social and legal context changed. FAL/12 – as a clear, legal ruling – was a landmark and turning point in the way health professionals in public health facilities conduct their activities, making it possible for them to move from providing silent and hidden abortion care, to acknowledging it with pride.

From main text:
…Stigma is a challenge for providers of abortion. A study shows that stigma is the main reason that explains the low number of providers. In the case of abortion providers or health professionals (the terms are used here interchangeably, and refer to gynaecologists, obstetricians, general practitioners, sociologists, sonographers, social workers, psychologists, etc.), there are specific features of the stigma experienced, although they share some common characteristics with stigma in women undergoing abortion. The most important difference is that women experience abortion a few times in their lifetime while providers must deal with abortion many times during their everyday work. So, far from being something exceptional, it is a daily experience for health professionals. In this sense, “their work identity is connected to abortion, and exposure to stigmatizing behaviours may be continual.” 

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Stigma and abortion complications: stories from three continents

by Meghan Seewald, Lisa A Martin, Lina Echeverri, Jesse Njunguru, Jane A Hassinger, Lisa H Harris   Full Text

Abstract
Complications from abortion, while rare, are to be expected, as with any medical procedure. While the vast majority of serious abortion complications occur in parts of the world where abortion is legally restricted, legal access to abortion is not a guarantee of safety, particularly in regions where abortion is highly stigmatised. Women who seek abortion and caregivers who help them are universally negatively “marked” by their association with abortion. While attention to abortion stigma as a sociological phenomenon is growing, the clinical implications of abortion stigma – particularly its impact on abortion complications – have received less consideration. Here, we explore the intersections of abortion stigma and clinical complications, in three regions of the world with different legal climates. Using narratives shared by abortion caregivers, we conducted thematic analysis to explore the ways in which stigma contributes, both directly and indirectly, to abortion complications, makes them more difficult to treat, and impacts the ways in which they are resolved. In each narrative, stigma played a key role in the origin, management and outcome of the complication. We present a conceptual framework for understanding the many ways in which stigma contributes to complications, and the ways in which stigma and complications reinforce one another. We present a range of strategies to manage stigma which may prove effective in reducing abortion complications.

VISUAL