PPLM’s research department conducted clinical and social science studies investigating contraceptive options, patient-centered abortion care, and other aspects of sexual and reproductive health care. Researchers’ findings appeared in medical journals, garnered media attention, informed Massachusetts policymaking, and benefited patients across the state.
Improving Care and Expanding Access
Improving the experience of all patients, no matter their circumstances, stands at the core of PPLM’s research agenda. In 2019, researchers studied the abortion needs of women who use opioids, with an emphasis on improving pain management options. In its continuing effort to expand contraception options, PPLM participated in a study investigating the effectiveness of a new, smaller copper intrauterine device (IUD) that may decrease side effects and increase contraceptive use, especially for women who have not given birth. The team also investigated the safety of providing medication abortion to patients whose pregnancy is too early in gestation for an ultrasound to detect. Providing very early medication abortion can expand access and could be particularly important for patients in states whose legislatures are attempting to ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
The intersections of research and policymaking
Members of PPLM’s research team – physicians, scientists, and public health experts – collaborated with the Family Planning Division of Brigham and Women’s Hospital to evaluate the impact of the Massachusetts law that requires patients under 18 to obtain parental consent or navigate the judicial bypass process in order to access safe, legal abortion. Judicial bypass is a process in which a young person must go before a judge to obtain a court order allowing them to access abortion care.
The study found that people who must use judicial bypass are disproportionately young women of color or those with low incomes, and that the judicial bypass process significantly delays a young person’s abortion, potentially denying them access to medication abortion and creating psychological, social, and economic burdens.
In June, Dr. Elizabeth Janiak, PPLM’s Director of Social Science Research, presented these findings before a legislative committee considering the ROE Act. The ROE Act proposes removing the requirement for parental consent for abortion along with other barriers to safe, legal abortion. This well-received and well-publicized testimony, and the research that led to it, demonstrates the power of evidence-based policy making. Said Dr. Alisa Goldberg, PPLM’s Vice President of Research and Clinical Training, “It is incredibly gratifying to see our research have a direct impact on practice and policy and improve care for patients.”
Dr. Alisa Goldberg received the Society of Family Planning’s mentorship award in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to training family planning physicians and investigators. The majority of Dr. Goldberg’s mentored research has occurred at PPLM.
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