On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization held that abortion is not a constitutional right, leaving states the ability to regulate access to abortion. This landmark decision has since led to a cascade of state-based regulations that limit access to abortion care – regulations that disproportionately affect those who are minoritized, marginalized, and vulnerable. Despite the politicization of abortion in the United States, research has consistently demonstrated that criminalizing abortions does not decrease abortion rates and that access to abortion is a crucial, necessary part of health care.
Many nonpartisan organizations face challenges in navigating how best to respond to the Dobbs decision while maintaining a politically neutral stance. As members of the Women and Gender Health Interest Group (WGHIG) Advisory Committee, we felt it important to seek the feedback of the researchers, policy makers, advocates, and health care providers who contribute their work to AcademyHealth and influence the landscape of health care in our country.
In July 2022, our Advisory Committee conducted a brief online survey asking WGHIG members to identify steps that organizations, such as AcademyHealth, should take in the wake of the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. As a result of this survey, members identified five key recommendations:
1) Make an official statement outlining a clear, evidence-based position condemning the effects of the Dobbs decision
Respondents noted that a statement about Dobbs should emphasize that abortion is essential and life-saving health care as is noted by a large compendium of research both in the United States and in other countries. Because of the devastating effects that limited or restricted access to abortion can have on pregnant people, their families, and communities, it is important to acknowledge that this decision has far-reaching clinical and public health ramifications.
In recognition that abortion is vital health care, respondents offered statements from several evidence-driven organizations including the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and The World Health Organization.
2) Sponsor and fund research that expands the evidence base on abortion and the implications of Dobbs
Respondents noted that organizations should take an active role in supporting research that examines the impact of Dobbs on the health of pregnant people, on health disparities, and on broader population-level outcomes. In promoting such inquiry, organizations, can become a key voice in pushing reproductive health policy by commissioning reports or policy briefs that summarize emerging evidence, identify gaps in knowledge, and galvanize key stakeholders in this work.
3) Amplify existing research on abortion care and policy via organizational platforms
Members of the WGHIG suggested that organizations can use their current infrastructures to center their response to Dobbs. They emphasized that AcademyHealth can center policy research on abortion and reproductive health at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting and highlight discourse via the AcademyHealth blog.
4) Provide evidence-based recommendations and advocacy efforts
Respondents to the survey suggested that organizations can utilize the existing and emerging evidence base for abortion-related care and partner with other organizations to amplify important recommendations and ensure that evidence is being utilized to change health care delivery or to protect those who require abortion care.
5) Avoid holding conferences, meetings, or events in states that have restrictive abortion legislation
Respondents asked that organizations avoid holding conferences and events in states with restrictive and harmful abortion legislation. Respondents went further to say that organizations should also avoid states that limit other social, political, and human rights (i.e., Laws/policies related to voting or LGBTQ+ rights).
Members of the Women and Gender Health Interest Group do not view abortion as a partisan issue given the decades long evidence-base that demonstrates clear harm to limiting access to safe and legal abortion, particularly for those who are marginalized or vulnerable. Organizations that claim to be non-partisan can continue to do so while promoting the carefully and rigorously built science policy that demonstrates abortion is an essential part of health care and centering their policy advocacy around such; indeed, many members suggested that not commenting on Dobbs reflects a clear partisan stance. Organizations should be encouraged to mobilize the expertise of members to inform and guide their responses to major policy decisions. Last and most importantly, regardless of the current political climate, the science of abortion makes it irrefutable that it is an essential reproductive and human right. It is our responsibility as health policy researchers, advocates, care providers, and community members not to lose sight of that.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of AcademyHealth or of their respective affiliated employers/organizations. Learn more about AcademyHealth Interest Groups here.