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Health Department Engagement on Abortion


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. 

Related Projects

Envisioning a 21st Century Public Health Approach to Abortion: A Convening of Maternal and Child Health Professionals

In May 2020, ANSIRH held a two-day convening to engage public health practitioners in health departments in defining activities related to abortion that are appropriate for health departments to engage in. Participants also developed a plan for supporting health departments to use accepted public health frameworks and values to guide their work related to abortion. You can read the executive summary of the convening, and the menu of activities related to abortion for state and local health departments, here.

Approaches, Barriers, and Facilitators to Abortion-Related Work in U.S. Health Departments 

This project aimed to describe the abortion-related activities undertaken by maternal and child health and family planning professionals in state and local health departments, understand how health departments approach their work related to abortion, and examine the facilitators and barriers to whether and how abortion work is implemented. We conducted key informant interviews with 29 professionals in 22 state and local health departments. This project found that most health departments implement what they are legally required to do. However, some agencies at both the state and local level, bring public health principles and approached to their abortion-related 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.

Interested in this project? Health department professionals should contact:

Claudia Zaugg, Project Manager