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Patient and public involvement (PPI) is limited within abortion-related research. Possible reasons for this include concerns about engaging with a stigmatised patient group who value confidentiality and may be reluctant to re-engage with services. Structural barriers, including limited funding for abortion-related research, also prevent researchers from creating meaningful PPI opportunities. Here, we describe lessons learnt on undertaking PPI as part of the Shaping Abortion for Change (SACHA) Study, which sought to create an evidence base to guide new directions in abortion care in Britain. Two approaches to PPI were used: involving patients and the public in the oversight of the research and its dissemination as lay advisors, and group meetings to obtain patients’ views on interpretation of findings and recommendations. All participants observed the SACHA findings aligned with their own experiences of having an abortion in Britain. These priorities aligned closely with those identified in a separate expert stakeholder consultation undertaken as part of the SACHA Study. One additional priority which had not been identified during the research was identified by the PPI participants. We found abortion patients to be highly motivated to engage in the group meetings, and participation in them actively contributed to the destigmatisation of abortion by giving them a space to share their experiences. This may alleviate any ethical concerns about conducting research and PPI on abortion, including the assumption that revisiting an abortion experience will cause distress. We hope that our reflections are useful to others considering PPI in abortion-related research and service improvement.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health

Publication Date





142 - 145