With an eye on major shifts in the abortion landscape, Ipas senior legal advisor Patty Skuster is calling for a more rigorous look at how abortion laws around the world affect public health outcomes.
Writing in the Temple Law Review, Skuster says legal and scientific research on abortion laws generally tends to focus on the circumstances in which abortion is legal. “This overlooks other factors which can have a great impact on who receives care, such as who is legally authorized to provide abortions,” she says. It also diverts attention from other important questions, such as whether abortion laws are leading to delays in care, increased costs, or which groups of people are impacted by legal requirements.
With respect to the shifting abortion landscape, Skuster’s article points out that the number of people who need abortions and are living in refugee camps and other crisis settings is in the tens of millions and continuing to rise—a situation that demands attention because of the “complicated relationship” between abortion law and public health outcomes in such settings.
In addition, more and more people are managing their own abortions outside the formal health systems, using medicines they obtain from pharmacies, online sellers or through telemedicine services. “Though self-managed abortion is not legal in most places,” Skuster says, “the law does have an impact on the practice of self-managed abortion. For example, the threat of arrest may impact the decisions a pregnant person makes while seeking abortion. Or the need for privacy may shape where they get medicines and the safety of the abortion.”
In issuing this call for legal and scientific researchers to work together to produce “a clearer view” of the relationship of abortion laws and their impact on the health outcomes, Skuster’s hope is that the evidence they turn up will better serve people’s needs and, in the end, improve abortion care.