Young people who need clear and open information about abortion have long faced stigma. It’s time for that to change says Dona Milne, Consultant in Public Health with NHS Lothian.
It has taken us many years to make progress on our conversations about sexual health and relationships with young people in our schools, homes and youth groups. But an increasing body of recent research has helped us learn more about what young people want and need – and they want to talk to adults they trust about topics that are relevant to their lives.
In September 2015, The Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) published important research on young people’s views and understanding of abortion. The research highlighted major gaps and misinformation in young people’s knowledge about where, when and how abortions are provided in Scotland. When discussing abortion, young people drew on debates around rights, responsibilities and choice, and on gender stereotypes relating to norms of sexual behaviour.
In response to this research, NHS Lothian and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde have created a new animated film, Let’s Talk about Abortion – the first of its kind in Scotland.
Abortion is a safe and, in the vast majority of cases, straightforward reproductive healthcare procedure. Around 1 in 3 women in the UK will have an abortion, and yet many, particularly younger women, find their reproductive choices judged and stigmatised. Let’s Talk About Abortion addresses the gaps highlighted by the research findings and provides information that young people themselves have asked for, in a format which they will engage with. The film seeks to address some of the attitudes around choice and gender that young men and women in the study shared with researchers.
Young people have a right to good-quality health information and to be confident about where they can go for help. In the case of abortion, this includes young men. We want young people to hear our key message that time really matters when making a decision about abortion and that the sooner you seek help from services, the better. We want to reduce the fear and stigma that may surround this decision by providing clear, factual information and supporting young people to access services easily and quickly.
The young people involved in this research took the time to share their views and attitudes towards abortion openly and honestly, and we have attempted to respond in a way that respects this. We now need to make sure that Let’s Talk about Abortion is available to young people, with the film discussed as part of sexual health and relationships education in our schools and youth groups. Please watch it and share it with the young people you work with.
Help us to increase the knowledge and reduce the stigma surrounding abortion in Scotland.