Throughout its more than 30-year lifetime, Family Planning Perspectives has evolved to meet the needs of an ever-changing field. Continuing that tradition, with this issue, we introduce two of our most exciting innovations to date: a new title--Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health--and a new look.
Both of these changes are results of a comprehensive evaluation of the journal to which we devoted almost two years. We surveyed our readers; solicited the opinions of our colleagues here at The Alan Guttmacher Institute, the Institute's board of directors and the journal's editorial advisory committee; and subjected every aspect of our work to the scrutiny of independent communications consultants. These efforts gave us the opportunity to step back, reassess and respond.
Family Planning Perspectives was launched in 1969, amid increasing awareness that many poor Americans lacked access to family planning information and services, a growing understanding of the adverse consequences of that lack and the first-ever commitment by Congress to provide substantial funding to help implement programs that work. The journal was designed "to provide a medium for sharing with men and women of good will in the serving professions, to whom it is addressed, information on some...elements and techniques that will be required to achieve the common goal: to provide modern family planning services for all Americans."1 And its first several volumes--with their focus on program costs and funding, policy, types of methods, approaches to serving poor women and teenagers, and abortion politics--reflect that singular aim.
Before too long, though, the field had expanded its focus, and the contents of the journal followed suit. In the 1970s, Perspectives published some of the seminal studies documenting the adverse consequences of teenage pregnancy and childbearing on young women's health, educational outcomes, marital stability, future childbearing, occupational opportunities and welfare dependence. For a time, it covered pressing issues related to population and development in the developing world (a task eventually assumed by its international counterpart, International Family Planning Perspectives). And it began to explore sexuality education, maternal and child health, public opinion about abortion, and the attitudes and behaviors that shape women's need for contraceptive and abortion services.
With the 1980s and 1990s, the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and the advent of HIV and AIDS created a host of new concerns, and the family planning field became, more broadly, the reproductive health--and then the sexual and reproductive health--field. Perhaps the most dramatic change in the way researchers, policymakers and program planners approach these issues came in 1994: In that year, the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development formalized a commitment that had already taken shape in the field to focus more closely on individuals (men as well as women), and not only on their sexual and reproductive well-being, but on their rights and responsibilities as well. Perspectives has reflected this shift, too, by expanding yet again the topics it covers, the voices it airs and the audiences it reaches.
Finally, a few words about the new design. To some extent, the journal simply was in need of a face-lift. But more than that, in this respect, too, we have sought to respond to our readers' needs. You asked us to make the journal more attractive and more user-friendly; we think we have done that.
So that's where Perspectives has been. Undoubtedly, the field will continue to evolve; we are committed to ensuring that Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health continues to evolve with it. The articles in this issue represent the journal's breadth:
•In the lead article, Mary A. Ott and colleagues explore the factors that go into sexually active teenagers' decisions about using condoms together with hormonal contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases [see article].
•Lawrence B. Finer and coauthors' contribution details the types of services offered by agencies that receive public funding to support contraceptive services [see article].
•How did the legalization of abortion in the United States affect adoptions? This question, overlooked until now, is the topic of Marianne Bitler and Madeline Zavodny's analysis [see article].
•Stephen L. Fielding and colleagues explore another understudied issue: whether women who choose medical over surgical abortion continue to view the method favorably once they have terminated their pregnancy [see article].
•Studies regarding the effects of teenage childbearing on children's health, social and economic outcomes have reached conflicting findings, and Sandra L. Hofferth and Lori Reid find that a crucial aspect in such analyses is accounting for changes over time in the effects of early childbearing and in children's outcomes [see article].
The formal evaluation of the journal that led us to the changes you see in this issue has long since been completed. But evaluation and change are dynamic processes. We therefore welcome your comments as to how successful the journal is in meeting your needs, and we remain open to learning how we can make it even better.
1. Guttmacher AF and Todd PH, Jr., Perspectives: the road ahead, Family Planning Perspectives, 1969, 1(1).