A Matter of Facts — September 2023
From Our President
For those of us involved in the close-knit community field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, conferences are an opportunity to come together as a movement. Convening regularly with colleagues and collaborators, partners and peers from around the world provides us with important insights and chances to connect. To break bread, build bridges and even to let loose.
The COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 caused event after event to be canceled or postponed. It’s wonderful to see in-person meetings and events returning. It’s also refreshing to see that hybrid events continue to be scheduled. These offer flexibility to accommodate concerns about the effects of travel on climate change. Hybrid events also undoubtedly encourage equity by enabling accessible and affordable attendance options for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate. After all, the more perspectives included in the dynamic discussions taking place at these conferences, the better our chance to work together toward meaningful change.
In April 2022, I attended my first in-person conference since the pandemic: the joint Health Datapalooza and National Health Policy Conference, where I moderated a session on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Also that month, Institute staff participated in a number of sessions at the Population Association of America’s annual meeting, which has long been a key event for Guttmacher scientists to present our research and engage with the broader research community.
Following multiple pandemic-related delays, the 2022 International Conference on Family Planning—the world’s largest conference dedicated to SRHR—kicked off in Thailand last fall. A series of in-person and virtual events showcased the incredible contributions that Guttmacher and our partners make to the global family planning community. I was buzzing with energy after seeing our terrific team in action and witnessing the love that so many in this community have for our staff and our work.
That was also very much the case at the Women Deliver 2023 Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, in July. Guttmacher hosted a virtual session with experts from Fòs Feminista, Consorcio Latinoamericano contra el aborto inseguro and Reproductive Health Network Kenya to discuss the global reverberations of the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. The conversation highlighted how much we in the United States can learn from movements such as the Green Wave in Latin America. We’ll need inspiration like this as we dig in for the long fight to secure abortion access stateside.
I’m looking forward to more of these energizing conversations at future convenings, and meeting more and more members of this amazing community of reproductive rights champions.
Stay safe and strong,
Herminia Palacio, President & CEO
57% of people getting an abortion at a sample of US clinics opted for a medication abortion, and the remainder opted for a procedural abortion.
Read more about the characteristics of people obtaining abortion in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy from a study based on Guttmacher’s 2021–2022 Abortion Patient Survey.
Behind the Scenes
Adapting Our Approach to Abortion Data Collection
Abortion was legal across the United States for nearly 50 years. During that time, Guttmacher collected the most comprehensive national data on abortion available through two longstanding research initiatives: the Abortion Provider Census and the Abortion Patient Survey. Dramatic changes in the abortion policy landscape since Roe v. Wade was overturned have led to equally dramatic changes in abortion provision and require new strategies for analyzing these fast-moving trends.
“The ground has shifted in abortion data collection,” says Isaac Maddow-Zimet, data scientist with Guttmacher. “Estimating counts of abortions has never been easy. And now post-Dobbs, it’s only gotten harder. We need to be able to measure the impact of policies that have been changing month to month and, unfortunately, sometimes week to week.”
Guttmacher’s new Monthly Abortion Provision Study uses an innovative research methodology designed to do just that. It combines our decades of historical data on the caseloads of every provider in the United States with monthly data collected from samples of providers. This approach is intended to capture changes in abortion provision as a result of recent policy changes while minimizing the data-reporting burden on providers, many of whom are already struggling to accommodate increased patient loads. Using the combined data, our research team generates state-level and national monthly estimates of procedural and medication abortions obtained within the formal US health care system. In the coming months, they’ll also produce data on patients’ gestational duration and interstate travel for abortion care.
“This is a real opportunity for us to transform our data collection infrastructure to be more nimble,” says Maddow-Zimet, the study’s principal investigator, “and to experiment with new models that will allow us to iterate quickly as we respond to shifting research and policy needs post-Dobbs.”
The initial, just-released set of estimates cover January to June 2023; Guttmacher also released a policy analysis explaining and contextualizing the findings. Going forward, the Institute will publish regular updates on our website. “It’s really exciting to get results out there so fast,” says Maddow-Zimet. As the research team collects data each month and feeds them into the model, estimates for past months will grow increasingly accurate; our published results may change over time as they do. Next year, we’ll share national and state results for all of 2023.
For decades, both the Abortion Provider Census and the Abortion Patient Survey have provided essential information to policymakers, advocates, providers and the public. The Monthly Abortion Provision Study complements the work we’ve been doing—and will keep doing—to ensure that precise and timely data inform future policy.
Evidence In Action
Guttmacher at Women Deliver
From headlining panels to promoting global partners, Guttmacher staff engaged with many of the 6,500 gender equity advocates from more than 170 countries at the Women Deliver 2023 conference, held July 17–20 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Dr. Herminia Palacio, president and CEO of Guttmacher, moderated a virtual panel on the global reverberations from the rollback of US abortion rights. Kelly Baden, our vice president for public policy, joined that panel as well. One of our principal research scientists, Elizabeth A. Sully, took part in two panels: one focused on how data and tools can support SRHR advocacy and the other on how gender equality and women’s reproductive rights are central to economic growth from demographic changes. And Guttmacher’s director of global policy, Irum Taqi, participated in a panel on stories of safe abortion and sexual and reproductive rights and justice.
Guttmacher’s exhibition booth bustled with activity as visitors tried the Institute’s Instagram quiz, which features an augmented reality filter. In addition, three of our partner organizations staged “booth takeovers” to share information on their efforts to promote sexual and reproductive health.
How US Governors Used Executive Orders to Protect Abortion Access
When a draft of the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision was leaked, in May 2022, it presaged a monumental change to abortion access in the United States. Recognizing the need to take decisive action, 14 governors used executive orders to offer legal protections to people seeking or providing abortion care in their state.
How do these executive orders protect people? Governors supportive of reproductive rights anticipated a surge of patients coming from states with abortion bans, so they crafted and signed executive orders saying that their states will refuse to cooperate with other states’ attempts to investigate, extradite or punish people involved with legally provided abortion care.
Governors had good reason for taking these protective measures: Dobbs was not the culmination of the anti-abortion agenda. Even after the decision, states hostile to abortion have continued to enact draconian abortion bans and restrictions, such as prohibitions against helping minors travel for abortion care.
So why aren’t these measures enough? Though they’re efficient, and have the force of law, executive orders aren’t permanent. They’re not enshrined in state statutes or constitutions, and they can be rescinded by succeeding governors. Legislation, constitutional amendments, funding for reproductive health initiatives and other proactive strategies are necessary to protect and promote access to abortion care.
Read more for details on all abortion-related executive orders issued since the Dobbs leak and recommendations for follow-up policy action.
Give Guttmacher the Gift of a Lifetime
Did you know that you can extend your generosity—or leave the gift of a lifetime—to an organization whose mission aligns with your values through planned giving? The Guttmacher Institute’s Legacy Circle is a community of allies who have made the meaningful choice to include a charitable gift to the Institute in their estate plans. Recognizing the enduring importance of the Institute’s research and advocacy, our Legacy Circle members have planned ahead by pledging a gift to Guttmacher through a will, trust or beneficiary.
It’s an easy way for you, too, to make a difference well into the future without incurring a monetary cost today. It’s also a wonderful way to make a cause you care about part of your life story. Joining the Legacy Circle now will be a testament to your unwavering support for the fundamental right to sexual and reproductive autonomy for all.
Since 1968, Guttmacher has played a key role in the advancement of reproductive freedom worldwide. Help us sustain our commitment by taking this extraordinary opportunity to leave a lasting impact for generations to come. For more information, visit gu.tt/legacy.
- Regretting Motherhood: A Study, a book by sociologist Orna Donath, is an interesting dive into parenting regret, says research assistant Ashley C. Little. It neatly complemented (and was featured in) the engrossing documentary My So-Called Selfish Life, directed by Therese Shechter, about the choice to be child-free.
- Senior development associate Olivia Domba highlighted this NPR article and audio story about Islam, abortion and faith-based approaches to reproductive rules.
- Senior research associate Jesse Philbin recommends a book review by Emily Callaci, “a very cool historian who studies reproductive rights and justice movements in Africa and the US,” scrutinizing How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump, by Laura Briggs.
- “The movie Polite Society was really fun and has some sexual and reproductive health and rights components,” says senior development assistant Rhea Goveas of the film about a teenager fighting (literally) to protect her sister from the perils of marriage.
- Allison Yarrow’s book Birth Control: The Insidious Power of Men over Motherhood projects, editor Peter Ephross notes, “righteous anger over how the United States handles pregnancy and childbirth.”
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Physician and author Tanaya Narendra is on a mission to make sex education fun, inclusive and easy to understand. Under the social media moniker “Dr. Cuterus,” she provides facts and busts common myths about anatomy, sexuality and reproductive health. This explainer video on ectopic pregnancies is a good example of how she’s making complex health topics more accessible and engaging for people in India and around the world.