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ANSIRH News

Abortion Onscreen in 2016

In 2016, we identified 13 plotlines on American television where a character considers getting an abortion, and 10 plotlines where they actually do obtain one. These numbers follow the patterns we’ve observed over the past three years: a fairly consistent number of pregnancy decision-making plotlines and abortion results, with a slight increase in the rate of choosing abortion over past decades (77% this year, compared to about 50% in our overall sample).

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No evidence of emerging mental health problems after having an abortion

In “Women’s mental health and well-being five years after receiving or being denied an abortion: A prospective, longitudinal cohort study,” published in JAMA Psychiatry, ANSIRH’s Turnaway Study found that having an abortion does not adversely affect women’s mental health either at the time of the abortion or over five years after receiving abortion care. We also found that denying women abortion has negative consequences to their mental health and well-being in the short-term.

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Research informed recent U.S. Supreme Court decision

ANSIRH Director, Daniel Grossman, wrote a Viewpoint piece titled, “The Use of Public Health Evidence in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt,” in JAMA Internal Medicine on how research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project helped establish a judicial precedent for using public health evidence to evaluate abortion laws.

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The Stratified Legitimacy of Abortions

Prior to Roe v. Wade, an individual woman’s access to legal abortion care was affected by her social position, including her race, class, and geographic location. Roe was supposed to eliminate this privilege-associated unequal access. However, today, despite being common and safe, abortion is performed only selectively in hospitals and private practices, with over 90% of abortions in the U.S. performed in outpatient clinics. We find interpersonal interaction and social criteria influence physicians’ decision to selectively provide abortion care.

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Women are certain about their decision to have an abortion

Using a validated scale that is considered the gold standard for measuring certainty about health care decisions, we found that women seeking an abortion are as certain, if not more certain, about their decision than women and men are when making other health care decisions like whether to have surgery or to be treated for cancer. This finding directly challenges the narrative that decision-making on abortion is somehow exceptional and requires additional protection, such as state laws that mandate waiting periods or targeted counseling and whose stated purpose is to prevent women from making an unconsidered decision.

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Sixteen years after FDA approval, mifepristone's potential is still limited by restrictions

Mifepristone was approved in by the US Food and Drug Administration on September 28, 2000. Sixteen years later, the hoped-for improvements in access to abortion due to this drug have not been fully realized. In an opinion piece in US News & World Report, ANSIRH Director Dr. Dan Grossman explores the state laws and federal regulations that are limiting access to medication abortion. From laws banning telemedicine to provide abortion to FDA regulations preventing pharmacy dispensing of mifepristone, a range of policies make it difficult for women to use this safe and effective abortion option.

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Doctors and witches, conscience and violence: Abortion provision on TV

Stigma theorists have suggested that media can both produce and reduce abortion stigma. In a study of abortion plot lines of television from 2005 – 2014, we found evidence consistent with this hypothesis. On television, abortion care provided by physicians who were working in legal settings was safe, effective and compassionate, while care provided by non-medical professionals was often depicted as dangerous and ineffective.

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Reflecting on Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt

On June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court announced its decision in the Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt case brought by Texas abortion providers against the state of Texas. ANSIRH’s Carole Joffe organized and contributed to a symposium on the Court’s decision, with contributions from Professor David Cohen of Drexel University, Stephanie Toti, the lead counsel in Whole Woman’s Health, and Dr. Bhavik Kumar, a Texas abortion provider. Carole Joffe’s contribution to the symposium, titled, “Reflections on Whole Woman's Health v Hellerstedt: savoring victory, anticipating further challenges,” is available now from Contraception.

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Ohio law restricting medication abortion did not improve health outcomes

This study examined the impact of an Ohio law that went into effect in 2011, restricting the provision of medication abortion to an outdated FDA protocol. Women who had medication abortions after the law was implemented were three times more likely to require at least one additional medical treatment to complete the abortion than women prior to the law. They also required more clinic visits, had more side effects, and incurred greater costs. These results suggest that mandating adherence to an outdated protocol forced Ohio doctors to treat women with a protocol that did not appear to have any added benefit to women’s health.

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Military women, Zika and abortion: A letter to the editor

Responding to 33 U.S. Service Members Have Contracted Zika, Pentagon Says, published on August 3, 2016 in the New York Times, ANSIRH’s Dan Grossman and Carole Joffe pointed out that the article was “noteworthy for what it did not mention: the possibility that exposed servicewomen or sexual partners of exposed servicemen could need an abortion because of the risk of fetal malformations associated with Zika infection,” and added “we owe it to those serving our country to make available to them the full spectrum of necessary reproductive health services, including contraceptive methods to prevent unintended pregnancy and testing for the Zika virus, as well as abortion services for those who request them.”

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Banner photo: © Aura Orozco-Fuentes

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ANSIRH is a program within the UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health and is a part of UCSF's Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences.

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