Deep Cultural Stigma Surrounding Sexual and Reproductive Health Contribute to Knowledge Gaps of Abortion Methods and Access to Care
For Immediate Release: May 30, 2023
Contact: Virginia Lucy, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and Ibis Reproductive Health released findings from a first-of-its-kind study on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) experiences with medication abortion.
“There is little to almost no research that examines the unique abortion needs and experiences of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities,” says Isra Pananon Weeks, Interim Executive Director & Chief of Staff at NAPAWF. “Based on our research, we found that 35% of AANHPI respondents had never heard of medication abortion, and nearly half, or 47%, did not know where to access medication abortion if they needed it.”
“When AANHPI people of reproductive age access abortion care, they often face community-related barriers including a lack of family support that often leads to feelings of isolation,” says Katherine Key, Senior Research Manager at Ibis Reproductive Health. “Feeling alone and unsupported will negatively impact anyone’s abortion experience. But for AANHPI communities, this reality is exacerbated by an existing lack of culturally sophisticated and language-appropriate information on abortion and sexual and reproductive health issues.”
Sixty-one percent of AANHPI survey respondents who previously had a procedural or medication abortion reported experiencing at least one community-related barrier when seeking or receiving abortion care. The range of community-related barriers to abortion include an overarching stigma towards abortion and sexual and reproductive health, lack of family support, lack of language support for limited- or non-English speaking patients, and living with or near family members.
Overall, the taboo nature of abortion led to limited knowledge about abortion methods and a strong desire for more open conversations and support. Specific examples shared by the interview and focus groups participants include (*pseudonyms used to maintain anonymity of participants):
“…before [my medication abortion] I had no idea you could just take pills. I always thought that abortion was a…process with surgery, so I was very relieved to find out that I could do this option.” – Emily, Taiwanese Research Participant
“[On] the night that I took the abortion pills, I booked a hotel because I didn’t want to go through it at home. I was living with my parents at the time…[so] it was [an] extra cost and also extra work.” – Ji-a, South Korean Research Participant
“I wish that it was something that I could have freely talked to my parents about, because they are a big part of my life…having the people that I was living with…understand what I was going through and try to support me would have made a big difference.”
– Miyoung, South Korean Research Participant
“One of the reasons why I burst out in tears when I found out that I was pregnant was because of the influence that I’d had from…the Christian community [and] Korean culture…I was raised to think about abortion, that it’s the wrong thing to do, and that I shouldn’t even get myself in that position to begin with.”
– Mindy, South Korean Research Participant
“The findings from this study underscore how important it is to have more conversations about our reproductive health without it being a source of shame or embarrassment,” says Weeks. “For the 1 in 3 AANHPI pregnancies that end in abortion, access to reliable and accurate information about different abortion methods is critical especially in states and cities with large AANHPI and immigrant populations and less robust public health programs.”
The two-year study, “Medication abortion among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders: Knowledge, access, and attitudes,” is based on quantitative data from online and phone surveys, as well as qualitative interviews and focus group discussions. Participants included both U.S. and foreign born respondents.
A full copy of the report is available at: napawf.org/medabortion
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The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is the only multi-issue, progressive, community organizing and policy advocacy organization for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls in the U.S. NAPAWF’s mission is to build collective power so that all AAPI women and girls can have full agency over our lives, our families, and our communities.