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Research study

Health Department Engagement on Abortion

- back to the Public Health Approaches to Abortion Project

Health departments have been involved with issues related to abortion since the 1970s. Today, the scope of abortion-related activities within health departments are often mandated by legislators rather than developed by public health professionals.

The goal of the Health Departments and Abortion project is to engage public health professionals working inside and outside of health departments in defining the abortion-related public health services health departments should provide. Through this project, researchers have proposed how health departments should engage with abortion care, identifies the type of work around abortion currently being undertaken by health departments, and engages with public health professionals to understand their processes, challenges, and opportunities in facilitating abortion-access and assuring the quality of abortion care. These projects include:

Recent work

A 21st Century Public Health Approach to Abortion – This commentary applied an accepted public health framework – the CDC’s 10 Essential Public Health Services – to describe how health departments should engage with abortion. Using this framework, the researchers argue that health departments should facilitate women’s ability to obtain an abortion and promote the use of scientific evidence base in abortion-related laws, policies, regulations, and implementation of essential public health services.

State and Local Health Department Activities Related to Abortion – This project systematically investigated health department activities related to abortion through an analysis of state and local health department websites. The project found that most state health departments engage in abortion-related activities, but concluded that this involvement largely reflects what the law requires rather than the range of core public health activities.

Next steps/Ongoing work

Exploring health department roles in relation to abortion. People working in health departments are rarely included in conversations on how they should engage with abortion. This project seeks to engage people working in maternal and child health programs and facility regulation in health departments through workshops, stakeholder meetings, and online forums to support them in moving their activities closer to the 21st century public health approach to abortion.

As a first step, our researchers are developing a workshop for maternal and child health programs at state and local health departments to explore their professional roles related to abortion and identify opportunities to move practices related to abortion more in line with accepted public health frameworks. At the same time, our researchers are developing and evaluating strategies to have health departments incorporate more evidence into their abortion-related decision making, especially as it pertains to facility regulation.

Interested in this project?

Health department professionals should contact:

Claudia Zaugg, Project Manager

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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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