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Abortion stigma reduction at the population level: development of a mass media intervention

Elizabeth Janiak, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts

Project abstract

Stigma threatens the health of people who need abortion care and their communities directly through transient psychological distress, and indirectly by preventing healthful behaviors such as social support-seeking and utilization of medically safe services. Stigma also underpins public policies that erect structural barriers to abortion care.

Over the last several decades, public health researchers and practitioners have partnered to improve population health by combating stigma around myriad health issues. Recognizing that reducing the harms of stigma requires a society-wide attitudinal shift, these campaigns do not target only individuals experiencing certain health concerns, but rather the entire population. Current examples include mass media harm reduction campaigns to combat the stigmatization of substance use disorder in light of the opioid epidemic. Public health mass media campaigns have also targeted stigma around HIV and mental health services. However, to date, no large-scale domestic mass media campaign has utilized an evidence-based, public health approach to develop, disseminate, and evaluate messaging designed to reduce abortion stigma at the population level.

Our team will fill this gap leveraging the expertise of the fields of family planning, health communications, and public health practice. Beginning with an intersectional analysis, we will consider how stigma is differentially enacted in diverse communities. We will then use our planning grant to develop evidence-based messaging and to design a follow-up study to rigorously test the efficacy of that messaging in reducing abortion stigma.


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