January 9, 2014 — Tracy Weitz -- an abortion researcher whose findings helped pass a California law (AB 154) that expanded access to abortion -- in an interview with ProPublica discussed her past and current work as she prepares to take on a new role.
Weitz currently directs the University of California-San Francisco's Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program, which is part of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. According to ProPublica, she is preparing to start a job at another organization, which she declined to identify.
During the interview, Weitz explained that her interest in policy and politics, combined with her experience as a medical sociologist, led her to study abortion. She noted that one of the greatest challenges abortion researchers face is funding, in part because the federal government is barred from funding any research involving abortion care.
Weitz also offered insight into some of her projects. For example, she explained that the study that provided data for California lawmakers about the safety of allowing non-physician health care providers to perform first-trimester aspiration abortions also sheds light on other states' laws that require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The study showed "that complications requiring transfers to hospitals are actually exceedingly rare," Weitz said.
In addition, Weitz discussed the Turnaway Study, an ongoing eight-year study involving 30 abortion clinics nationwide that developed in response to opponents' assertion that "abortion hurts women, that they feel regret" after the procedure. She said, "What we want to know is: Who are those women and what do they need?" She added, "[A]nother of our questions was: what happens to women who wanted an abortion but couldn't get one?"
Weitz continued, "The take-home from that study is that most women are having an abortion because they say they can't afford to have a child. And it turns out that they're right: Two years later, women who had a baby they weren't expecting to have, compared to the women who had the abortion they wanted, are three times more likely to be living in poverty."
Weitz also discussed some preliminary research she presented at a conference last year, examining how state and federal courts view abortion research. After reviewing more than 1,000 documents, Weitz and colleagues have found "no consistent standard for how science is or is not incorporated into the legal decisions." However, she noted that the research is ongoing (Martin, ProPublica, 1/8).