ANSIRH was founded in 2002 by Felicia Stewart, MD, and Tracy Weitz, PhD, MPA as a program of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at UCSF, where Dr. Stewart served as co-director. Together, Drs. Stewart and Weitz built a multidisciplinary program dedicated to conducting rigorous and innovative social science research on complex and controversial issues related to reproduction.
Since its founding in 2002, ANSIRH has grown to include more than 30 faculty, researchers, and staff members, and has become a leading source of ground-breaking research on abortion, contraception and other aspects of reproductive health.
Dr. Stewart (1943-2006) was a dedicated physician and powerful advocate for women’s access to high-quality, evidence-based reproductive health care and policy. In addition to her roles as a clinician, researcher and educator, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, responsible for managing the National Family Planning Program (Title X) and the Adolescent Family Life Program (Title XX) from 1994 to 1996. Before her untimely death at the age of 63, Dr. Stewart served as a guiding force in the reproductive health field. In addition to many other contributions, her work helped to bring about revolutionary advances in the provision of oral contraception, emergency contraception and medical abortion. Dr. Stewart’s legacy continues to inspire ANSIRH’s work. Read more about ANSIRH founder Dr. Stewart.
Dr. Weitz is a lifetime advocate of women’s health and reproductive rights. Trained as a qualitative sociologist, she designed and undertook mixed methods research at ANSIRH focused on strategies to expand abortion provision in the United States. After Dr. Stewart passed away, Dr. Weitz assumed the Director role, and oversaw a long and productive chapter of growth and expansion at ANSIRH. A brilliant thinker, networker and mentor, Dr. Weitz’s leadership was instrumental in leveraging the collective power of ANSIRH faculty and staff to successfully conduct complex research studies with immense relevance to reproductive health policy and practice. In 2013, Dr. Weitz left ANSIRH to assume a leadership position elsewhere in the field of reproductive health. ANSIRH remains committed to the vision she shaped in her years at ANSIRH. Read more about ANSIRH founder Dr. Weitz.
As ANSIRH’s staff and projects began to expand, Diana Greene Foster, PhD, a demographer who had been at ANSIRH from its infancy, agreed in 2006 to serve as the organization’s first Research Director.
One of Dr. Foster’s major contributions in this role has been to lead the Turnaway Study, an innovative study that examined the mental health, physical health, and socioeconomic effects on women of receiving or being denied a desired abortion (see "Turnaway Study begins" below).
ANSIRH’s HWPP #171 began training and evaluating nurse midwives, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants as abortion providers in 2007.
The results, which demonstrated safety and acceptability rates comparable to that of physicians, were critical to the passage of legislation in California in 2014 to allow advanced practice clinicians to provide first trimester aspiration abortions. Today ANSIRH researchers continue to track the effect of the law change on abortion care in California.
From 2008–2010, ANSIRH researchers recruited women who were seeking abortions at 30 facilities across the U.S. Some were within the clinic’s gestational limit and received abortions; some were “turned away” and carried to term because they were over the gestational limit of the facility.
Phone interviews over five years provided data on mental health, physical health, and socioeconomic effects of receiving an abortion vs. carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. The Turnaway Study has thus far resulted in more than two dozen publications in peer reviewed journals and has attracted significant attention from the media and policy makers.
This was a period of rapid organizational growth for ANSIRH. During this time we brought on many new researchers who broadened our multidisciplinary approach and areas of research.
We also increased collaborations with other researchers in the field and developed productive research relationships with many clinics across the country. Two ANSIRH faculty published groundbreaking books in this period: Carole Joffe, PhD, authored Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The cost of fanaticism to doctors, patients, and the rest of us, and Lori Freeman, PhD, wrote Willing and Unable: Doctors’ constraints in abortion care.
California Assembly Bill 154 was passed in 2014 and went into effect on January 1, 2015. The Health Workforce Pilot Project’s (HWPP) Early Abortion Training Workbook became the state’s abortion provision training tool for nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants.
After Dr. Weitz’ departure, Dr. Foster stepped in as Interim Director and ANSIRH began a search for a new Director. On September 1, 2015, we were delighted to welcome Dan Grossman, MD, MPH to that role.
Dr. Grossman’s research on abortion access for women in the military, over-the-counter oral contraception, telemedicine, and the impact of abortion restrictions on women in Texas has received considerable attention, and he is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of reproductive health research. As Director, Dr. Grossman will help carry ANSIRH into our next chapter of rigorous scientific contributions to the field of reproductive health.
Banner photo: © 2009 Jana Carrey.