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Young people’s views and knowledge about abortion

When asked specifically about ‘what’ abortion is, the language used by young people was often negative and highly emotive:

“killing the baby”

“abortion is a shan”

The young people described abortion as


“moral issue”

Even where participants self-identified as Roman Catholic, amongst whom a more strongly anti-abortion position might be expected, there was a tendency to say that

“you need to look at the bigger picture” – Affluent, Females, 17-19

There was limited awareness of where abortions would take place:

YP1: “Doctors, GP… That’s about all I know.”

YP2: “Aye but would they not refer you to somebody else? … Like in a hospital or something like that, a women’s abortion place, a clinic, I don’t know.” – Deprived, Females, 14-16

The way and extent to which abortion is taught in schools was discussed by most groups. The lack of factual education about abortion within school was considered to be problematic by many groups because it meant that young people were not fully informed:

“It’s not something that’s talked about, like, if I was wanting an abortion I wouldn’t have a clue what I was doing. I wouldn’t know how to go about it.” – Deprived, Females, 17-19

The validity of the reason for the abortion was viewed as dependent on the context or circumstances behind the pregnancy:

“Well from me I think that in certain circumstances it [abortion] can be a good thing… in others it can be a bad thing.” – Affluent, Females, 14-16

“[if] you thought they would have a worse life if they were born.” – Affluent, Females, 17-19

“I know somebody that’s on the dole and they’ve got two children and they can barely feed their children and their children will go about three or four days without food.” – Deprived, Males and Females, 17-19

Most groups reported on the influence of family, particularly parents, as strongly shaping young people’s ways of thinking and in their decision making:

“I think if your family just don’t believe in it [abortion] then they’re not going to believe it no matter what the reasons are.” – Affluent, Females, 17-19

Alongside the influence of parents, the opinion of peers on pregnancy and abortion was also raised as significant in young people’s lives:

YP2: “You’d get so much hate… Like people would just be calling you… like, if you walked past people they be like ‘oh yeah that’s the person that got pregnant.'”

YP1: “Slut shaming.” – Affluent, Females, 14-16

“She’d probably think the way people look at her would change, like… everybody knows her as ‘she had an abortion’ kinda thing. Her reputation.” – Affluent, Females 17-19

The groups found it relatively difficult to discuss access to services in any detail, given their lack of knowledge around abortion provision. Many of the groups said that they lacked knowledge about where to go for help and advice and linked this to the “taboo” or “stigma” surrounding abortion.