The American Public Health Association adopts new policies on abortion and contraception

Monday, February 1, 2016

APHA logo

At its Annual Meeting in November 2015, the American Public Health Association (APHA) adopted three new far-reaching statements to support access to abortion and contraception and promote reproductive justice. The statements include a policy calling for an end to restrictions on funding for legal abortion services, which “deny, delay and impede access to abortion services, increasing women’s risk of injury and death.” The Helms and Hyde Amendments, key restrictions on US federal funding for abortion, are called out in particular. Additional statements endorsed by APHA members were those calling for universal access to contraception – which also notes the critical importance of access to abortion care as an element of women’s preventive reproductive health care – and denouncing anti-abortion laws that require hospital admitting privileges and transfer agreements for abortion providers

“In the face of increasing attacks on abortion rights, these strong and unequivocal policy statements from APHA are very welcome,” said Barbara Crane, Executive Vice President for Technical Leadership and Advocacy at Ipas. “The APHA positions, grounded in public health evidence and human rights principles, should help influence needed legal reforms to advance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

Experts and advocates, including Ipas representatives, joined together to develop the policies and build consensus around them. The policies were subjected to rigorous review before being endorsed by APHA, a broad-based organization of more than 30,000 members. The policy focused on funding for abortion benefitted in particular from the leadership of the San Francisco-based Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign, a project of the Center for Policy Analysis. According to Ellen R. Shaffer, PhD MPH, co-Director of the Center, who led the process and drafting of that policy, “While APHA has long supported abortion rights, it is more important than ever to inform and motivate public health leaders to advocate for overcoming the wide gaps in access to reproductive health services between rich and poor women, wherever they live. By providing an extensively documented resource statement, and inspiring ongoing activism by APHA members, the project accomplishes those goals.”

The Center for Policy Analysis received a small grant from Ipas to facilitate its work during the process leading up to the abortion funding policy. The Center and partners organized two sessions at the APHA conference in November 2014 that brought together, educated and activated public health advocates about the harms to women both in the United States and around the world caused by the Hyde and Helms Amendments’ restrictions on Federal abortion funding. The revitalized APHA Abortion Rights Task Force is pursuing ongoing plans and publications.