Liletta: New IUD approved by the FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved Liletta™, a new hormonal intrauterine device (IUD). This levonorgestrel-releasing IUD inhibits uterine lining from thickening and has been FDA approved for up to three years to prevent pregnancy. Liletta, found to be more than 99 percent effective, is already available in Europe and should arrive in the USA within the next few months.

Liletta was developed by Actavis and the non-profit Medicines360. Given the current high cost of IUDs, Medicines360 has focused on making Liletta affordable and accessible to all women. FDA approval was based on results from the largest hormonal IUD trial conducted in the U.S. The Section of Family Planning has been proud to participate in this study since 2010, as part of our broader commitment to research that improves contraceptive access for women.

Our previous research revealed various barriers in accessing the most effective methods, including cost. One recent study, conducted with support from the Office of Population Affairs, explored systems-level barriers to IUD provision. This research led to the development of a toolkit for clinical staff and health care providers to use in identifying and addressing barriers in their own clinics. We are also currently researching the feasibility and effectiveness of using mobile applications for contraceptive counseling in clinic waiting rooms. Our current studies follow previous research on an initial application, available here as an iOS app.

The Section supports the FDA’s approval of Liletta given its effectiveness at preventing pregnancy and ease of use for most women.

“Increasing the array of available and affordable contraceptive methods helps women find a method that best helps them achieve their reproductive health goals”, said Dr. Melissa Gilliam, Chief of the Section of Family Planning and lead investigator for the Section’s study site.



“Vessel”: A documentary and a movement

The new documentary “Vessel” leaves the audience inspired, furious, and perhaps above all, gobsmacked with the profile of Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch abortion provider and all around revolutionary. Gomperts first gained notoriety in 1999, when she created a mobile clinic aboard a ship and sailed to countries where abortion remains illegal. She aimed to reduce the number of unsafe abortions and unwanted pregnancies by providing sexual health services, including early medical abortions, in international waters. Because the ship flew under the flag and laws of its home country, The Netherlands, the team could provide mifepristone* and misoprostol** (the medicines, when taken together, cause an abortion) to women within the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy.

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts aboard the ship as it arrives in Spain (image courtesy of

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts aboard the ship as it arrives in Spain (image courtesy of

The documentary highlights the gumption and resources needed to create such a novel (and enviable) social enterprise. When the ship finally takes to sea under the moniker Women on Waves, protesters and media await them at the shore. At nearly every port, authorities and politicians ensured that the ship struggled to dock, stay, and allow local women to board. Yet, as word got out of the ship’s arrival, the team received hundreds of phone calls requesting appointments and information.

The first half of the film follows the ship’s journeys and the mission of relaying the message that medical abortion with misoprostol (with or without mifepristone) gives women the possibility to safely do medical abortions themselves. This option needed a platform, and so Women on Waves transitioned from the open sea to focusing on empowering women how to do a medical abortion by distributing information through the internet, stealth advertising, and by supporting the creation of safe abortion telephone hotlines. If women could not come to the ship, thought Gomperts, she would directly deliver them the pills.

The latter half of the film follows what arose from this experience: Women on Web. Women had already figured out that taking misoprostol, available as an ulcer medication, could induce a miscarriage. Misoprostol was known for being safe, but women around the world kept asking: How do we get it?

So, along with the website, Gomperts and her team launched campaigns around the world—in Portugal, Ecuador, Morocco, and more—where they advertised the information hotline and how women could procure a safe abortion. One scene in the film plays out like a heist as the team schemes to raise a banner advertising their contact number from a statue of the Virgin Mary. Throughout, the calls for help kept coming, as did the backlash.

But Gomperts did not let backlash, or the fear of any such judgment or consequence, hold her back.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

One of the biggest takeaways from “Vessel”, besides the impressive central character, is how much fun the team appeared to be having on the boat and on the ground when planning covert advertisement campaigns. It was a refreshing reminder that empowerment should be enjoyable. Helping women receive normal medical care should feel good.

Although not explored directly in the film, Dr. Gomperts refuses to work with and in the United States. In previous interviews, she explains why she does not mail pills to women in the United States. We know all too well that although abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973, women’s access to abortion is constantly restricted by the political and religious right via TRAP laws and other legislation.

Gomperts puts the onus on us—advocates in the United States—to push for legislative change and until then, to provide medical care any way possible. She challenges women’s groups to find reliable sources for misoprostol pills and to refer women or deliver to women in order to administer safely at home. She does not want to endanger her own work, and so she calls out the abortion rights groups in the United States to rise up to the challenge of our time.

Gomperts maintained throughout the film that her work is not a personal mission, but a response to a need. She never intended to be an activist, but a doctor who alleviated suffering.

To wit, when grilled by the media about her personal life (“Have you ever had an abortion?”) she  replies,

“Are you going to ask somebody working for Amnesty International if they’ve been tortured, no, come on, this is about whether or not women have basic human rights” […] “you cannot force any women to go through an unwanted pregnancy… it’s a humiliation, it’s a torture for them.”

Although she did not intend to be an activist or an anecdote, Dr. Gomperts is an ally worth emulating. She saw a need, and set out to meet that need. “Vessel” is essential viewing for abortion rights workers in the United States. May we address the needs we see and meet them, so that when women need an abortion, they do not have to rely upon obscure interventions, but upon equal, affordable, basic healthcare systems already in place.

Thank you to The Nightingale Cinema in Chicago for hosting the screening. See where else the film is screening here or watch on Video on Demand platforms or iTunes now!

*Also known as Mifeprex; RU-486

**Also known as Cytotec

Today is #GivingTuesday – Support Ci3


Today, Ci3 will participate in Giving Tuesday, a global call to action and celebration of generosity kicking off the holiday season.

In this spirit, help us continue to fulfill our mission by making a tax-deductible donationPlease specify “Ci3” in the Special Instructions box at the bottom of the form.

At Ci3, we believe that advancing sexual and reproductive health and personal well-being depends on building skills and assets among youth. We develop programsgames, and research that not only empower young people, but help reframe how we view their health and well-being. On a national, local and global level, we illuminate broader, systems-level changes that can encourage positive youth development and position young people to succeed in leading healthy, productive lives. Over the past year, Ci3’s work was published in leading research journals, and featured in well-respected local and national press.
Two featured ongoing projects include:
  • Bystander, an interactive, computer-based narrative that explores the role of the bystander in sexual violence scenarios
  • Smoke Stacks, which uses the Hexacago game board to educate teenagers about the dangers of smoking, from the perspective of the tobacco industry

Ci3’s success is strengthened by the generosity and support of our constituents. Please consider investing in furthering Ci3’s mission today. Be a part of the action by following us on Twitter and using the hashtag #GivingTuesday. Please specify “Ci3” in the Special Instructions box at the bottom of the form.

Questions? Contact Ci3 Executive Director Dr. Brandon Hill, at (773) 834-8509 or via email.

Khan_The S.E.E.D. July 11th_ 41

Tomorrow – Free Webinar for Family Planning and Primary Care Providers

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

The Illinois Medicaid Program recently released a major new policy on family planning, including increased rates for certain procedures. Illinois Healthcare and Family Services is offering a free webinar on Wednesday, December 3 at 1 p.m CST. This interactive session will assist both family planning and primary care providers to take advantage of this new policy for their clients by synthesizing and presenting the most valuable current data and best practices in family planning. Register now.

Ci3 Seeks Youth Ages 15-24 for Mobile App Dev – First Meeting 12/3

Creating Belief 4

Are you between the ages of 15-24 years and interested in contraception, STI prevention and technology?

Ci3 is seeking young people to assist in the development of a mobile app to help youth make healthy decisions about contraception and STI prevention.

Our first meeting will be held Wednesday, December 3, from 4:30-6 p.m. at Ci3’s offices at 1225 E. 60th St., on The University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.

RSVP is required. Please contact Dr. Lucy Hebert at (773) 834-7196 or to confirm your spot.

  • What will I be doing? You will help to design a mobile app, by engaging in a series of group discussions focusing on pregnancy and STI prevention. We will lead every session, all you have to do is come ready to participate. We even provide dinner!
  • What is the time commitment? You will participate in 8 sessions over the next 2 years. Each session will last 1-2 hours.
  • Where will it take place? All sessions will be held at the Ci3 offices (1225 E. 60th St. on The University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park).
  • What do I get out of it? Over the course of 2 years, you will be compensated $300.

Why you should work with us:

  • Help create a dynamic tool to encourage young people like you to engage in healthy sexual behavior
  • Learn about mobile app development, human-centered design, and sexual and reproductive health
  • Collaborate with clinicians, researchers and your peers as an interdisciplinary team

For more information or to RSVP to the Dec. 3 session, please contact Dr. Lucy Hebert at (773) 834-7196 or



Ci3 Seeks Male and Female Actors for Video Shoot – Nov. 24 & 25

Mentor Training Ice Breaker 2

Ci3 seeks male and female actors aged 18-22 and preferably African American, for a paid video shoot at The University of Chicago.

We are developing a mobile app that provides women with increased information about various contraceptive methods and STI prevention, to be used in a clinical setting. The app will feature short video testimonials, focusing on condom use.

You will need to memorize and recite a short, 1-minute script about condom use on camera. Being relatable and natural on-camera is a must: it should sound like the experiences in the script are your own.

Time commitment should be no more than 1 hour (including memorization and filming) and compensation ($20) is provided. All shoots will take place on November 24 and 25 at The University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.

If interested, please contact Philip Ehrenberg or Dr. Lucy Hebert (phone 773-834-7196).

Asking Your Doctor about Birth Control

Studies have shown using contraception consistently and correctly reduces rates of unplanned pregnancy.

For many women, that is easier said than done. Complicated lives, medical issues, and safety concerns are important factors to consider when choosing the best birth control method. And what matters in the end is having a birth control method that meets individual needs.

SHAPE Magazine interviewed Section faculty Dr. Julie Chor about “3 Birth Control Questions You Must Ask Your Doctor”. Dr. Chor is an experienced contraceptive counselor, and in the article she advises all women to talk to their doctor about birth control options. She stresses the basics, such as asking how often you need to remember to take a form of contraception and if that realistically fits into your lifestyle.

Earlier this year, FitPregnancy asked Dr. Chor about the best postpartum birth control and she gave her expert advice about how IUDs help attain a healthy pregnancy interval.

Dr. Chor can answer your questions about birth control during her clinic hours at the University of Chicago Hospitals where she provides contraceptive counseling and family planning services. Make an appointment here.


JOB OPPORTUNITY: Ci3/Section Research Manager


Ci3 and The University of Chicago Section of Family Planning and Contraceptive Research seek a full-time Research Manager to work across both organizations. A partial job description is as follows:

The Research Manager will: conduct qualitative and quantitative analyses. Provide general oversight of the analysis and dissemination of research. Oversee the conceptualization and implementation of research studies. Serve as lead program manager as needed for specific projects. Assist fellows with planning, implementation, and analysis of their research studies. Collaborate with faculty on the planning, writing, and submission of grant proposals to federal agencies and foundations. Work with faculty and staff in the Section and Ci3 to write manuscripts for peer-reviewed publications.

Requirements include a Master’s degree or above in Public Health, Health Studies, Social Work, Sociology, Psychology, or related field, as well as a strong commitment to sexual and reproductive health and adolescent health.

For a full job description and list of requirements, and to apply, please click here and enter Requisition Number 094835.

Sexual and Reproductive Rights on Campus: Cross-Division Dialogue at the University of Chicago

On Tuesday, February 11, the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics and Ci3 (the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health) hosted the first of a series of brown bag lunch talks called “Cookies & Conversation with Ci3”. The series will offer a space where students and professionals from across campus can speak and hear about issues surrounding reproductive and sexual health, rights, and justice. This lunch talk was an informal panel with an amazingly diverse turnout with students represented from the law school, the medical school, the SSA, the GPHAP program and the College, each of whom were passionate about issues intersecting with  reproductive and sexual health, rights, and justice, all interested in leveraging the university’s resources to make significant improvements in the sexual and reproductive health of their communities.

Ci3 Letterhead with UC Logo-02

Three panelists affiliated with Ci3 led the discussion: Lee Hasselbacher, Andrea Friedman, and Angela Heimburger. Lee Hasselbacher is the Policy Coordinator for the Section of Family Planning and Contraceptive Research here at the University of Chicago. The Section advocates for policies that reduce reproductive health disparities and improve the health of families and is involved in reproductive health advocacy throughout the Midwest and is increasing its national presence. Andrea Friedman is the Senior Policy Advisor with the National Partnership for Women & Families and a consultant with Ci3. Angela Heimburger is the Executive Director of Ci3, and she, like the rest of the Ci3 team, is dedicated to helping faculty develop cutting-edge interdisciplinary research and programming to improve sexual and reproductive health globally.

During this first talk, students worked to identify issues of interest on the University of Chicago Campus in order to leverage the resources of Ci3 to better engage the student body in their research and advocacy. Several ideas for future lunch talks and advocacy were suggested, including: the need for greater information in the University community surrounding the use, availability, efficacy and safety of IUDs, the reproductive rights and sexual health of persons with physical and mental disabilities, sexual assault on and off campus and the availability of emergency contraception throughout the Chicago area, and the politics of the contraception and abortion debate, including the promotion of scientifically accurate information. We also had the opportunity to learn about Ci3’s new and innovate approach to youth sexual education through the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab, an initiative that uses game play and game design to engage youth in problem-based, collaborative learning about sexual and emotional health.

Now is an exciting time to be interested in reproductive rights and sexual health, especially as Ci3 seeks to elevate the voice of the Midwest to be an active player in the national reproductive rights debate. There’s a lot to look forward to!