Sexuality Policy Watch

New resource synthesizing abortion stigma qualitative research: “Abortion Stigma Around the World”


We are excited to share “Abortion Stigma Around the Globe”: A Qualitative Synthesis. After a review of literature and available resources, we discovered a lack of analysis of qualitative research. Through the production of this resource, we hoped to paint a picture of how stigma appears in different geographic regions, and across the different levels of the ecological model. We specifically examined peer-reviewed articles that addressed abortion stigma (in the title, abstract, or subject heading), employed qualitative methods, and reported thematic findings on abortion stigma. We found that stigma, not surprisingly, is socially constructed, culturally and socially embedded and is influenced by social and cultural mores. Without cultural norm transformation, stigma continues to manifest in multiple ways, across a variety of contexts.

We envision this synthesis of the qualitative literature to be a living document, where future updates could address emerging understandings of where and how stigma manifests. Future updates will include an analysis of what interventions are underway to mitigate and reduce abortion stigma, and what results are showing progress towards reducing abortion stigma.

qualsynth  Spanish Qualitative Synthesis  French Qualitative Synthesis

English Version                       Spanish Version                      French Version

How to Use “Abortion Stigma Around the World”

  • Share with colleagues who are researching abortion stigma manifestations.
  • Compare manifestations of abortion stigma in your local area to other regions and settings.
  • Consider what levels of abortion stigma you are addressing in your work, and look to see how stigma is manifesting at that level around the world.
  • Deepen your understanding of how stigma plays out across levels and contexts.

Document Background and Complementary Resources

As part of our work, inroads staff stay up-to-date with the literature about abortion stigma. Our goal is to make findings and analyses about abortion stigma available and accessible to members. We’ve been reviewing articles and technical reports and linking to them through the inroads stigma resource library. From talking with members and keeping an eye on the literature, it is clear that what is most useful for the movement to end abortion stigma is a synthesis of the abortion stigma-related research. Fortunately for all of us, some of that work has already been done!

A great starting point for understanding the theory, some practical manifestations of stigma, and some foundational research is the special issue of the Journal Women and Health on abortion stigma.Featuring the work from several inroads members and edited by Kate Cockrill, founding inroads member and Executive Director of the Sea Change Program; Leila Hessini, inroads Steering Committee member, Director of Community Access with Ipas; Kristen Shellenberg, inroads member and Senior Advisor of Research and Evaluation with Ipas; and Katrina Kimport, Assistant Professor with Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health; this special issue was convened to address the lack of peer-reviewed research explicitly focused on abortion stigma. If you are an inroads member and would like help accessing this issue or individual articles, please contact

Another great resource is a seminal report published by the Sea Change Program, Ibis Reproductive Health, and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health. The white paper details their findings from a comprehensive review of the literature defining abortion stigma, measuring abortion stigma, and exploring interventions designed to reduce stigma. They also conducted interviews with abortion service delivery providers and this report includes those findings.

With these resources available to inroads members, we at inroads turned our attention to how abortion stigma manifests in the qualitative literature. For now, we hope you can put this synthesis of qualitative literature to use in ending abortion stigma. If you have updates or analyses to share with inroads members, please contact us at 

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