Online Program

Defining a public health approach to abortion

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 : 10:30 a.m. - 10:50 a.m.

Sarah C. M. Roberts, DrPH, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, Dept. of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, Oakland, CA
Amanda Dennis, DrPH, MBE, Ibis Reproductive Health, Cambridge, MA
Liza Fuentes, MPH, Ibis Reproductive Health, Oakland, CA
Advocates on both sides of the debate over abortion rights claim the mantle of public health. Yet it is unclear how those claims correspond to a public health framework actually used in the public health field.  Exploring that question in the context of scholarly literature provides an opportunity to deconstruct the use and potential misuse of public health frames in research and scholarship about abortion. We examined the published literature in this area, using the search terms “public health” AND “abortion” to identify published articles that claim or imply a public health approach to abortion. We compared the implicit and explicit definitions of a public health approach to abortion in these articles with a generally accepted public health framework, namely the list of 10 essential public health services.  We then identified ways in which the literature reflected a public health approach, or instead used the mantle of “public health” to advance positions grounded in other values. We identified the following as consistent with a public health approach to abortion:  epidemiologic research to identify effects of having versus not having an abortion; efforts to assess and ensure access to abortion; evidence-based strategies to improve abortion safety; abortion surveillance; strategies to reduce costs to the health care system; and harm reduction. Efforts to train the public health workforce in a genuine public health approach to abortion are warranted.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
List elements of a genuine public health approach to abortion. Distinguish between public health arguments used to mask value-laden positions about abortion and a genuine public health approach to abort Note areas where their own personal values conflict with their obligations as public health professionals.

Keyword(s): Abortion

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am principal investigator of a grant seeking to define and promote a public health approach to abortion facility standards; I have been conducting public health research about abortion for more than three years and have been conducting public health research about different aspects of women's reproductive lives for a decade.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.