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OU research calls for improved support around self-managed abortions

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OU researchers are highlighting the importance of social connectedness for those undergoing self-managed abortions in the UK.

The research, which was published in the journal, Culture, Health & Sexuality, was undertaken with Ulster University and the University of Glasgow. It relates to one of the OU’s Open Societal Challenges within the Living Well theme, the aim of which is to challenge abortion stigma.

The research is the first to examine, in detail, factors of connection, support, and isolation, as experienced by those undergoing self-managed abortion in the UK.

Drawing on experience-centred interviews, the researchers used the concept of social connectedness to examine how self-managed abortion was experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to explore what could be learned to support future service provision.

They found that, overall, self-management as an option was welcomed. However, a sense of connectedness was crucial in helping participants deal with difficult experiences that arose.

One of the OU authors of the paper, Dr Carrie Purcell, from the OU’s Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, said:

“Self-management of abortion at home can be challenging and isolating, and opportunities for connection are crucial.”

Lead author of the paper, Lesley Hoggart, OU Professor of Social Policy Research said:

“Our research suggests a continued need to advocate for high quality support for self-managed abortion, as well as for choice of abortion method, to support patient-centred care.”

This research builds on the Abortion Stigma Open Societal Challenge, which is into its second year now, and progressing well.

Professor Hoggart is working with a charity called Abortion Talk to develop workshops for healthcare professionals and other organisations to address abortion stigma, which can lead to isolation.

About the OU’s Societal Challenges

The OU’s Open Societal Challenges Programme aims to tackle some of the most important societal challenges of our time through impact-driven research.

The Programme’s focus on the themes of Tackling Inequalities, Living Well and Sustainability aligns well with the OU’s mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

The Programme’s aim is to apply excellent research by OU academics to some of the most pressing challenges facing people across the UK and worldwide to transform lives and drive societal change.

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