How the Pandemic Has Affected Abortion Rules Around the World

Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging for women and girls to access reproductive health services, with an estimated 47 million women potentially cut off from modern contraception, according to the UN. In addition to clinic closures and barriers to medical care, the pandemic has halted progress in abortion decriminalization in many countries. For instance, in Argentina, the lower house passed a bill in 2018 to legalize abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, but once Congress went virtual in March, the bill was delayed, indefinitely. Colombia was also on the cusp of change, but in early March, the court ruled not to change the existing law that only permits abortion in cases of rape, risk to mother's life, or involves a fetus with serious medical problems. The pandemic further made it challenging for citizens to access reproductive services. In addition, Poland has one of Europe's most restrictive abortion laws, which Parliament discussed tightening in April. On...
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An Interview with Dr. Joy Noel Baumgartner

What originally sparked your passion in global sexual and reproductive health? I was originally interested in child welfare issues and realized how closely related that is with women’s ability to realize their reproductive intentions.   Have you had any mentorship opportunities that brought you to where you are today? I didn’t get into SRH work until after my PhD, while working at FHI 360. I can’t say there was one particular mentor—more like a committed environment of like-minded individuals dedicated to social and reproductive justice issues.   Do you have any guiding principles that keep you on track? I’m an applied researcher. At the end of day, I have to see how any project I’m working on will impact practice or policy—not “someday” but within a tangible time period.  That usually means very close collaborations with my research partners endure past the end of the funding.   Do you have any advice for students intending to follow the same professional pathway? If you’re interested in global SRH, know the countries/regions...
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Summarizing the panel: “Facing Hard Numbers and Hard Conversations: The Impact of Race and Socioeconomic Status in Women’s Health and Gynecology”

Summarizing the panel: “Facing Hard Numbers and Hard Conversations: The Impact of Race and Socioeconomic Status in Women’s Health and Gynecology”

Last week, we heard from three amazing speakers Nikki Mahendru, Dr. Chemtai Mungo, and Dr. Megan Huchko about the impact of race and socioeconomic status in women’s health and gynecology in an event held by Duke University’s Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies.  As an undergraduate student, Nikki spoke about the perspective she gained on this topic from shadowing an OB/GYN as well as her own mother’s experiences.  She provided great insight to the importance of an OB/GYN’s office as the birthplace of a woman hating or loving her body.  Dr. Huchko detailed her experiences in Niger working on a surgical team to repair fistulas.   Despite their great work, one woman suffered an unnecessary surgery due to the biased views of the doctors; today, this experience motivates Dr. Huchko to recognize and fight against implicit biases that may impede optimal care for a patient.  On the other hand, Dr. Huchko noted the recent positive shifts away from racism with more of an emphasis on centering the patient in care.  Next, Dr. Mungo...
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Reproductive Health During COVID-19

Reproductive Health During COVID-19

Maternal health and reproductive care were already facing known disparities before COVID-19 made its impact on the world.  In 2017, more than 800 women in the world died daily from preventable pregnancy and childbirth related causes across the world (Witter, 2020). Also, at that point in time, 10 million girls ages 15-19 were experiencing unplanned pregnancies every year (Witter, 2020). So, it is to be expected that when the world faces a pandemic that causes an incline in challenges to accessing resources, that poorer health outcomes are going to be experienced amongst this same threatened group (Witter, 2020).  During a health crisis, funds are reallocated and shifted to different resources (Witter, 2020), thus having a monumental impact on an already vulnerable population. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sana Frontiérs partnered with governments around the world in an attempt to prioritize reproductive services as essential during the COVID-19 pandemic (Kuehn, 2020). The cutbacks in maternal health funds alone has the potential to lead to 113,000...
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Poland’s New Abortion Laws

Poland’s New Abortion Laws

In the past week, thousands of people have taken to the streets in cities across Poland for days straight to protest the abortion ruling on October 22 by Poland’s Constitutional Court. The ruling banned all abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or cases when pregnancy poses an imminent danger to the mother’s life on the grounds that this choice is inconsistent with the constitution. More specifically, this law prohibits abortions in the cases of fetal disabilities, which accounts for 98% of the abortions performed in Poland. Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Human Rights Watch have condemned this ruling, stating that it violates women’s human rights and will in fact inflict harm upon the physical and/or mental health of a woman. These groups have also called upon the European Commission and EU member states to address this “breach of rule of law and [its] impact on fundamental rights in Poland” because stripping women of their reproductive...
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Reproductive Health Restrictions in the U.S. Can Affect Baby Health

Reproductive Health Restrictions in the U.S. Can Affect Baby Health

Recent research, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, has found that state reproductive rights policies have the ability to affect the health of babies born within the United States. The research concluded that women in states with less restrictive reproductive policies delivered “healthier babies” in terms of baby weight. It found that these women demonstrated a smaller risk of baby low birth weight than those of their counterparts in states with more reproductive health policy restrictions.  The restrictiveness of states’ reproductive policies was evaluated depending on factors including: mandatory abortion waiting periods, eligibility for Medicaid family planning and more. States were divided and categorized into groups of having the most, least, or moderately restrictive policies. Amongst these categories, 20 states had the most restrictive policies, 16 states the least restrictive policies (including Washington D.C.) and 15 states had moderately restrictive reproductive policies. Following this comparison, a 7% lower low birth weight risk was observed on average for women in...
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Judge Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court Nomination

Judge Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court Nomination

Following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there has been a lot of conversation surrounding who will take her place on the Supreme Court. President Trump’s nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, has been under a lot of scrutiny surrounding her confirmation hearing.  Judge Amy Coney Barrett currently serves on the U.S Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Prior to this position, she clerked for judges such as Judge Laurence H. Silberman and Justice Antonin Scalia. Judge Barrett has typically held conservative stances on topics such as immigration, gun control, LGBTQ+ rights, and reproductive rights.  Her rulings on the Court of Appeals have even further shown these stances. Judge Barrett has argued that states have the right to ban abortion if they do not like the reasoning. This argument was built despite the fact that her state, Indiana, had not been reviewing the issue. Additionally, the precedent set in Roe v. Wade made it clear that the government does not have...
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Reproductive Freedom Act in New Jersey

Reproductive Freedom Act in New Jersey

On October, 2, New Jersey introduced “The Reproductive Freedom Act,” which would enshrine the right to abortion and other essential reproductive health care for residents of the state. The timing of this legislation is no coincidence; the ruling came less than one month after the recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In light of the fact that another conservative Justice may take Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court, this Act would protect the abortion rights outlined in the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The contents of the Reproductive Freedom Act can be condensed into three main points. First, the Act stipulates that all New Jersey residents maintain the right to make their own personal health decisions relating to birth control and pregnancy-related care; this includes the right to an abortion. Second, the legislation ensures that financial factors do not pose as barriers that would prevent anyone from making these health decisions. This would require private insurance companies...
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Lives in the balance, a COVID-19 Summit

Lives in the balance, a COVID-19 Summit

By: Sandra Yvonne Oketch COVID- 19 is a public health crisis that has ravaged the health and economic situations and magnified the disparities and inequality that already exists in many women, adolescents and children. This impact has led to disruptions in health services that include: management of acute malnutrition, provision of family planning and immunizations, antenatal and postal care, HIV/ AIDS care and many other services. The Lives in the balance a COVID 19 virtual summit held on the 1st and 2nd July 2020 was hosted by Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) and Core Group bringing together key stakeholders to discuss the impact of COVID- 19 on the health and wellbeing of women, children and adolescents. The highlights from key note speakers: The first keynote speaker, was the WHO Director and he emphasized on the need of having multi-stakeholder platforms in the response to the COVID- 19 pandemic. “First, we need to advocate for an intersectoral approach informed by rights- based and...
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Faculty Spotlight: Joy Noel Baumgartner

Faculty Spotlight: Joy Noel Baumgartner

By: Angela Huang Across the past 6 years with Duke, Dr. Joy Noel Baumgartner has done incredible work within the fields of global mental health, studying maternal mental health, psychotic disorders and HIV/RH services in low resources settings across the world. She acts as the Director of the Evidence Lab and the Global Mental Health Working Group in Duke’s Global Health Institute. Furthermore, she acts as an Associate Research Professor of global health teaching classes related to maternal and child health. She also collaborates as a Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. She has conducted research everywhere from Tanzania to Jamaica, exploring how various community interventions may improve mental health and reproductive health. To highlight her recent work, she’s worked with other researchers in Duke and Guatemala to examine the factors that may prevent or promote implementing a perioperative patient safety program in the Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala. They found that limited resources, leadership engagement, and knowledge were...
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