On March 3rd, 2016, Médecins du Monde invited a variety of stakeholders to Paris to discuss the results of studies on unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions and their implications. French and African anthropologists, civil society representatives and policymakers, together with Médecins du Monde’s project implementers, engaged in debates, and shared findings and experiences. In particular, the need to better integrate and tackle youth needs was singled out. Improving the training of medical staff and strengthening quality in SRH services also appear essential, along with the imperative of dismantling restrictive legal frameworks hindering women and girls’ access to sexuality education, contraception and safe abortion.
The studies on the sociocultural and community determinants of unwanted pregnancies and abortions in Burkina Faso, Gaza, Peru and the Democratic Republic of Congo were conducted by Médecins du Monde in 2015. Specific dynamics can be observed depending on the context. It appears however that teenage girls and unmarried women are by far the most prone to have the course of their lives disrupted.
Women and men are still facing many obstacles to accessing quality sexual and reproductive health care services, contraception, safe abortion, or even reliable information. The studies found common barriers preventing the full exercise of sexual and reproductive health rights, ranging from structural obstacles in the provision of SRH services to restrictive legal provisions to exercising those rights. Unequal gender relations, cultural representations and religious beliefs in dealing with unwanted pregnancies have an impact that extends well outside of family and community settings. These studies show care providers further convey social and moral norms hampering the exercise of sexual and reproductive health rights.