Reproductive health and rights the focus of May Women’s Health Issues supplement

May 2011

May 9, 2011 –  This month’s supplement to Women’s Health Issues (WHI) celebrates the work of Ibis’s Ellertson Fellows, an exciting group of social scientists and public health researchers who study abortion and reproductive health and rights. The fellows were part of an innovative postdoctoral program, the Charlotte Ellertson Social Science Postdoctoral Fellowship in Abortion and Reproductive Health, which supported the development of a new generation of researchers dedicated to high quality research on abortion. From 2003-2010, 14 Ellertson fellows received salary support, mentoring, and communications and advocacy training to develop research projects that would inform abortion and reproductive health policy and further their careers in abortion research. The WHI supplement features 13 original articles, with contributions from every fellow that participated in the program.

Social science research on abortion is critically important to inform and evaluate abortion service-delivery and policy. Findings from US and international research on how policies impact women and families, how and why providers offer services, the quality and acceptability of services, and barriers to access and information show where policies are not meeting women’s needs and how those policies should be changed to enable women and families to live healthy and satisfying sexual and reproductive lives. Because of the US and international political battles and stigma surrounding abortion, high quality research has not received sufficient funding or attention—the Ellertson Fellowship aimed to legitimize abortion as a critical topic for social science researchers and catalyze attention to the issue across social science disciplines.

Kelly Blanchard, President of Ibis, said, “It has been a pleasure to work with such a talented group of committed researchers. Rigorous research on abortion and sexual and reproductive health is critical because these issues are so important to women and families—the research these fellows have done and continue to do will help ensure policies and services are designed in ways that meet women’s needs and improve women’s health. I look forward to all the exciting contributions they will continue to make in their fields.”

The Ellertson Fellowship was named for Ibis's founder, Dr. Charlotte Ellertson, whose own clinical and social science research on abortion, contraception, and HIV-prevention technologies aimed to increase access to products and services that would give women control of their reproductive health and lives. Charlotte played a critical role in the approval of mifepristone for early medication abortion in the US and was a key player in global efforts to improve provider knowledge and women’s access to emergency contraception. Charlotte was passionate about women’s health and rights and used her research training in creative ways to address challenging and controversial topics. She died of breast cancer in 2004.

The fellows represent a cross-section of social science, with doctoral degrees in demography, sociology, anthropology, epidemiology, public health, and psychology. They completed their fellowships at Columbia University, the Guttmacher Institute, Ibis Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins University, and University of California, San Francisco. Fellows currently work as university faculty, at private research institutions, and as independent researchers. As this volume shows, their work offers critical insights and proposes bold solutions that can help improve reproductive health policies and advance abortion and reproductive health research in years to come.

To read the WHI supplement, click here.