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RFLC Research Spotlight: The Power of Research in Proactive Policy Work

This week’s research spotlight looks at the research on the impact of proactive policy on abortion.

In addition to research that documents the harm of restrictions on abortion care, legislators can look to the data on the benefits of expanding access via repeals and proactive policy.

Telehealth provision of medication abortion care

The ability of clinicians to provide medication abortion via telehealth (phone, video, etc.)

Research shows:

Medication abortion care is a safe and effective method of abortion care that has been studied extensively since it was approved by the FDA over 20 years ago.

Multiple state-based studies have found that medication abortion via telehealth is an acceptable and effective model for both patients and providers, allows earlier access to care, and increases care options for people in rural areas.

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Expansion of the provider pool

Laws that allow advanced practice clinicians- including certified nurse midwives, advanced nurse practitioners, and advanced physician assistants- to provide abortion care.  

Research shows:

  • Advanced practice clinicians can safely and effectively provide medication and aspiration abortion care.
  • Supporting state funding for training programs and expanding the pool of providers able to provide care can help to address geographic disparities in access to abortion care in the states.

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Policies that respect autonomy and decision-making

Laws that repeal medically unnecessary laws, expand access, and protect the right to abortion

Research shows:

  • The vast majority of people are certain in their decision to have an abortion. 95% of women who had abortions in a large-scale longitudinal study consistently said that it was the right decision for them over the course of 5 years.
  • Compared to women who were denied wanted abortion care, women who receive a wanted abortion are “more financially stable, set more ambitious goals, raise children under more stable conditions, and are more likely to have a wanted child later.”

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Case studies: proactive policy in the states

The National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) tracked 608 proactive reproductive health and rights policies introduced in state legislatures in 2020.

  • NIRH’s  ‘Gaining Ground’ report provides an overview of all the proactive policies related to abortion care, contraception, pregnancy, parenting, sex education, and non-discrimination in reproductive health care and details case studies from the states.

Center for American Progress recently released a ‘Proactive Abortion Agenda’ to expand and protect access at the state and federal level.

  • The report outlines several policy areas that state legislators can pursue, including:  repeal of barriers to abortion care, regulation of so-called crisis pregnancy centers, state coverage of abortion care, expansion of telehealth and the provider workforce, and safety protections for providers and patients.

For additional research resources or to be connected with a research expert on reproductive health topics, please reach out to [email protected].