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New tactics to discourage women's use of reproductive health services: Use of scientific research and technology

Jo L. Sotheran, PhD, Research Consultant, 25 Plaza St., Brooklyn, NY 11217, (718) 398-4729, JSotheran@aol.com

Access to abortion services remains fragile. Opponents have often emphasized moral and political aspects, but recent years have seen an increased use of specifically health-related tactics borrowing from the medical and scientific research and technology, to discourage pregnant women from seeking abortions. Drawing on observational and archival research, this presentation illustrates the range of emerging techniques that deliberately borrow from established health-related practice and research, to create real or potential barriers to and anxieties around, use of abortion services. Evolving techniques in recent years include: (1) creation and promotion of a peer-reviewed body of scientific information to portray abortion as posing health dangers (such as breast cancer and long-term mental-health risks); (2) increasing use of new technology (especially ultrasound) for non-diagnostic purposes; (3) upgrading of specialized anti-abortion counseling facilities (CPCs) to medical clinic status; (4) characterizing specifically anti-abortion sidewalk counseling as a form of prenatal outreach and linkage to care, and (5) promoting the necessity for specialized post-abortion "healing" from presumed emotional damage. All of these techniques, by presenting themselves as politically neutral forms of health care, in fact represent another "front" in the conflict around providing access to safe abortion care. They have potential public-health impact by confusing and placing additional barriers in the way of patients, discouraging providers, and being difficult to detect and regulate.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Abortion, Access to Health Care

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The Struggle to Maintain or Expand Access to Safe Abortion Services in the U.S

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA