Destigmatizing Safe Abortion Care (SAC) Among Health Professionals in Ethiopia
Through the Destigmatizing Safe Abortion Care (SAC) Among Health Professionals in Ethiopia program, funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, EngenderHealth partners with various organizations to nurture appropriate, gender-sensitive, youth-friendly, and inclusive SAC behaviors among health professionals. Through this program, we are training youth-led organizations (YLOs), women-led organizations (WLOs), professional associations, and health professionals to counter the growing anti-choice movement in Ethiopia through a digital media movement to educate the general public and to address health provider bias in providing SAC. The program uses a digital-based advocacy and communication approach to do this work across the whole of Ethiopia.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, an estimated 99 million unintended pregnancies occur each year globally, and it is estimated that 41% of all pregnancies in Ethiopia are unintended, and 31% of those end in abortion. A 2022 study to explore and understand the social barriers women face in seeking and obtaining safe abortion care in Ethiopia found that despite changes in abortion law, women with unwanted pregnancies and those seeking abortions are still heavily stigmatized and sanctioned in many communities across Ethiopia. The same study found that “nearly three-fourths of the providers were not comfortable working in a site where pregnancy termination was performed, and only one-fourth of participants agreed with providing legal abortion under any circumstances.”
This program responds to the critical issue of provider bias in accessing safe abortion services in Ethiopia by supporting YLOS, WLOs, health professionals, and professional associations in their efforts to destigmatize SAC—by educating both health professionals and communities across Ethiopia. EngenderHealth utilizes our gender, youth, and social inclusion (GYSI) tools to ensure these organizations work in impactful, gender-transformative, youth-friendly, and socially inclusive ways. An essential intervention of the program is strengthening the capacity of partnering organizations to plan and implement an organized response to counter the growing anti-choice movement, which targets healthcare professionals, health programmers, government officials, and parliamentarians. The program leverages the existing Coalition for Comprehensive Abortion Care—a network of 13 organizations that are working on reproductive health and rights, established to achieve sustained gains in comprehensive abortion care—by ensuring plans are aligned, information is regularly exchanged, and guidance is shared between all organizations involved.
EngenderHealth is collaborating with professional societies and a digital media network of healthcare professionals and experts called “Yetena Weg,” who are “committed to providing evidence-based and reliable health information for the public, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their health.” We work with partnering organizations to implement digital media-based awareness, advocacy, and communication campaigns targeting young healthcare professionals. Additionally, we integrate evidence-based SAC advocacy during annual conferences and summits of professional associations to widen the reach of this vital message.
The program’s expected outcomes encompass destigmatizing SAC, breaking down barriers to SAC, and supporting locally-led abortion movements. We anticipate this program will lead to more robust collaboration between YLOs, WLOs, health professional-led platforms, and professional associations as they build coordinated digital media-based campaigns and work to educate their communities and health professionals. Critical to the growth and sustainability of this program and others like it, we will use our learnings and experiences from this innovative program to build evidence, inform programming, and complement local, regional, and global efforts to expand SAC.