Improving measurement of abortion incidence and safety: Innovations in methodology and recent empirical studies
Naivasha, Kenya, 19-21 November 2024
Organized by the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Abortion Research
Call for Papers:
Variations in the legal context for abortion presents different challenges to abortion measurement. In many countries where the abortion law is highly restrictive, indirect methods have commonly been used to measure abortion incidence. Limitations to these approaches, as well as the increase in self-managed medication abortion, call for new methodologies or adaptations to previously used methods to be developed. In settings where abortion remains broadly legal, available data are often incomplete. As such, improved documentation and more robust health systems data are needed to obtain more reliable measures of abortion incidence. In all abortion law contexts, methodologies are needed to assess the extent to which safe and legal services are being used and the level of unsafe abortion, and to identify which groups have inequitable access to legal, safe abortion services. Adding to the complexity of measuring abortion across differing legal contexts, the last decade has also been marked by a shifting legal landscape for abortion in many settings. In several countries, the criteria under which abortion is legally permitted have been expanded, and in a few, previously broad laws have been reversed. These changes underscore the need for improved methodologies to measure abortion incidence and safety. In settings where abortion was broadly legal and the law now is restrictive – such as the situation of a large number of states in the US – methodologies that were used to document abortion incidence in the past are no longer adequate and new approaches need to be developed or adapted. In addition, settings where abortion restrictions have been eased or lifted offer a unique opportunity to examine changes in service delivery of abortion safety.
Given the changing conditions under which abortions are now occurring, new and adapted methodologies and approaches for estimating abortion safety and abortion-related morbidity are needed. As safe abortion care becomes more difficult to access in some settings, it is important to understand the alternative ways women are terminating pregnancies and the safety of these methods in specific contexts. While understanding the frequency of unsafe abortion and its subsequent impact on maternal morbidity has always been an important objective for researchers, providers, and policy makers, measuring the health consequences of unsafe abortion is especially relevant in contexts where the abortion law has recently changed, where it is a valuable indicator of the impact of abortion law change and implementation of services for safe and legal abortion.
Accurate measurement of abortion incidence, and of abortion-related morbidity is important from a number of perspectives: from the demographic perspective because abortion is a key determinant of fertility level; from the equity and rights perspective because of individuals’ right to plan the number and timing of their births, and to have equitable access to safe abortion care, which is an essential component of sexual and reproductive health services; from the public health perspective, because unsafe abortion is a significant contributor to maternal morbidity; from the service provision perspective, because it is an indicator of unmet need for family planning, and relates to the need for improvement in contraceptive and postabortion care; and from the policy perspective, estimates of abortion incidence, national, sub-national and for population subgroups motivate and inform efforts to ensure access to safe abortion for all areas and groups within countries. Despite the difficulty of measuring abortion and abortion-related morbidity, it is important to innovate and improve on existing methodologies for doing so.
This seminar will provide an opportunity for researchers to present results from new studies on abortion (focused on incidence, safety and morbidity), propose new methodologies, assess the advantages and disadvantages of existing methodologies and help guide future work in this area. This seminar also allows for the presentation of research from a variety of contexts, ranging from those where abortion is broadly legal and safe, to those where safe and unsafe practices are both common, and those where abortion is highly legally restricted and safe abortion is extremely difficult to access.
We invite abstracts on the following topics:
Papers may be country-specific, comparative, or for sub-national areas and may focus on low, middle or high-income countries. This International Seminar will bring together demographers, public health specialists, sociologists and other specialists interested in measures of abortion incidence and its consequences with an interest in exchanging the latest scientific knowledge on measurement of the incidence of induced abortion, and abortion-related morbidity.
The IUSSP Scientific Panel on Abortion Research invites researchers to submit online by 1 March 2024 a short 200-word abstract AND an extended abstract (2 to 4 pages, including tables) or a full unpublished paper for consideration. To submit an abstract please fill out the IUSSP Abstract Submission Form.
Abstracts and papers may be submitted in English, French, or Spanish. However, the working language of the meeting is English, and presentations must be made in English.
The seminar will be limited to about 20 contributed papers. If the paper is co-authored, please indicate the names of co-authors on the abstract. Submission should be made by the author who will attend the seminar.
We plan to hold the seminar in person in Kenya, with the Population Council serving as our local host organization. Having the seminar in person is dependent on raising funds for participants who require financial support, and we are working on this. However, given the difficulty in raising funds, participants are encouraged to seek their own funding to cover the cost of their participation in the seminar. Should we not succeed in fundraising, we will consult with authors whose papers have been accepted about holding the seminar as a virtual meeting. Those who are applying for financial assistance from the IUSSP should indicate their need when they submit by ticking the appropriate box on the online submission form when submitting a paper or abstract. The IUSSP expects to inform applicants of the status of their application for financial support by May 2024. However, funding is contingent upon submission of a complete paper of acceptdable quality by the deadline for papers.
IUSSP Scientific Panel on Abortion Research:
Members: Harriet Birungi (Population Council, Nairobi, Kenya); Margaret Giorgio (Guttmacher Institute, USA); Ndola Prata (School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, USA) and Rishita Nandagiri (Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, King’s College London, UK).