Dr. Amy Whitaker joins panel discussion on abortion care

Dr. Amy Whitaker joined IL Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky on Monday, September 21 at Personal PAC for a panel discussion about issues surrounding choice. Illinois appellate judge Laura Liu moderated the panel.

Dr. Whitaker spoke about her passion for abortion care. She also described the situations our patients are in as well as the barriers that doctors face in providing abortion care.

To learn more about PersonalPAC, check out the hashtag #‎GetPersonalWithPersonalPAC‬ on Facebook and Twitter.

Congresswoman Jan Schakwosky and Dr. Amy Whitaker

Appellate Judge Laura Liu moderates the panel

Ci3’s Lee Hasselbacher Quoted in “Guardian” Article

Lee Hasselbacher

Image courtesy of Lee Hasselbacher

Lee Hasselbacher, JD, policy coordinator for Ci3 and the University of Chicago Section of Family Planning & Contraceptive Research, was quoted in a January 15 article on abortion rights, published in The Guardian. 

In the article, entitled “Restricting abortion high on the agenda for Republican-controlled Congress,” Hasselbacher expressed concern that individuals think of abortion as separate from women’s reproductive healthcare, and optimism that this attitude is changing.

Read the full article.

“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 vesselthefilm.com)

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

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 vesselthefilm.com

Image courtesy of vesselthefilm.com

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

Happy Holidays from the Section of Family Planning!

HappyHolidays

We appreciate your continued interest in our work and support of sexual and reproductive health and rights locally and globally. We hope that you will continue to follow our progress in 2015.

To continue to support us, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and sign up for our email list. We regularly email the latest information on our research, education, and policy initiatives, and our social media actively engages in conversations about sexual and reproductive health locally, nationally, and internationally.

If you would like to make a financial donation, your generosity will help us attain sexual and reproductive health and well-being for girls, women and families. Please designate your tax-deductible gift to the Section of Family Planning. Your gift is greatly appreciated!

Thank you and Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays from Ci3!

Ci3 at the University of Chicago wishes you and yours a safe and happy holiday season.

UChicago Winter cropped

We believe that advancing sexual and reproductive health and personal well-being depends on building skills and assets among youth.

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

Ci3 Seeks Youth for Mobile App Dev Project – PAID – Next Meeting 12/17 (UPDATED)

RockDOTS

UPDATE: Tonight’s meeting has been CANCELLED. For information about the next meeting, please email Dr. Lucy Hebert at lhebert@bsd.uchicago.edu.

Are you between the ages of 15-24 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 next meeting will be held Wednesday, December 17, from 5-7 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 lhebert@bsd.uchicago.edu 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, and 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. 17 session, please contact Dr. Lucy Hebert at (773) 834-7196 or lhebert@bsd.uchicago.edu.

Clear communication during appointment scheduling can increase LARC uptake

Portrait of a female doctor using a computer while being on the phone

UPDATE: the final version of this article is now online. Read the abstract and download the full article in PDF format.

A new study from Dr. Melissa Gilliam and former Section staff discusses why some scheduled IUD appointments do not result in placement.

“Impact of a revised appointment scheduling script on IUD service delivery in three Title X family planning clinics” was published in the June 2014 online issue of Contraception.

This study began by reviewing clinic administrative data, which showed that women did not receive a desired IUD because of cancellations, no-shows, the need for an IUD-specific appointment, lack of awareness of clinic guidelines, and unknown pregnancy status.

With these systems-level barriers in mind, the researchers created a simple and scalable intervention: revising the appointment scheduling call script. The revised script used by telephone schedulers at a call center addressed these common mishaps and met national Title X guidelines. Along with the revised script, visual tools reminded schedulers to explain behavior prerequisites such as “Do not have unprotected sex at least two weeks prior to an appointment” and “Continue to use pills, patches, or rings up until the appointment”. The script also prompted schedulers to communicate logistical requirements such as bringing an ID, proof of insurance or cash to pay for the procedure, and instructions to call and cancel an appointment if necessary.

Before the new script was instituted, only 47 percent of patients at these sites successfully received an IUD at their scheduled appointment. After implementation of the revised script, 60 percent of scheduled appointments resulted in the desired IUD insertion. Additionally, the no-show rates decreased from 40 to 23 percent, and in particular, young women were more likely to keep their scheduled appointment.

This study shows that a simple IUD appointment scheduling script with clear communication improves LARC uptake. Additionally, as many clinics in the US move forward to computerized and centralized call centers, improving patient communication during the scheduling process may have a broad impact on clinical efficiency.

Related: Development and testing of an iOS waiting room “app” for contraceptive counseling in a Title X family planning clinic

 

Use of an iOS Waiting Room “App” Improves LARC Knowledge

image from www.securedgenetworks.comSection Chief and Ci3 Founder and Director Dr. Melissa Gilliam has published a research article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology called Development and Testing of an iOS Waiting Room “App” for Contraceptive Counseling in a Title X Family Planning Clinic.

Data shows that long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods (the IUD and implant) are highly effective forms of contraception, but used by less than 10 percent of US women. After talking to clinic staff and analyzing appointment data at three Title X clinics in Chicago, this study found that a lack of contraceptive counseling during a scheduled appointment contributes to the under-use of LARC methods.

This study began by identifying key failures in IUD service delivery, including inadequate counseling time, non-use of waiting room pamphlets, and failure to counsel all women on LARC methods. As a result, the research team opted to create a counseling “app” to increase women’s contraceptive knowledge and interest in the most effective methods.

Results showed that users were highly satisfied with the app and it was easy to use. A brief (<15 min) app session significantly improved women’s knowledge scores on the relative effectiveness of LARC compared with other methods—before she even met with the healthcare provider. App testers (n=17) preferred the interactive, visually appealing design and video testimonials. In the pilot RCT (n=52), app users had significantly higher knowledge of contraceptive effectiveness (p=0.0001) and increased interest in the implant (7.1% to 32.1%, p=0.02) post-intervention. While app users reported increased interest in the contraceptive implant, the app had no discernible impact on women’s interest in the IUD.

The study concluded that integrating app usage into the Title X setting is highly acceptable, informative, and easily integrated into waiting room situations or downloaded onto smartphones in advance of a visit. Thus, apps could be a mechanism for implementing timely, evidenced-based educational information to a wide network of clinics and clients.

Section Faculty Co-Edit New Book on Contraception

Section chief Melissa Gilliam, MD, MPH, and Section faculty Amy Whitaker, MD, MSc, have co-edited the book Contraception for Adolescent and Young Adult Women. Published by Springer, the book provides evidence-based and up-to-date information for clinicians, as well as resources to pass on to patients. Dr. Gilliam is also Founder and Director of Ci3 (the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health).

From the Springer website:

Now more than ever there is a need for youth to learn about and use contraception consistently and effectively. Contraception for Adolescent and Young Adult Women is a valuable resource for gynecologists and primary care practitioners who are on the front lines when it comes to discussing, recommending, and prescribing contraceptive options to adolescent and young adult women … This book serves as an excellent reference for family physicians, adolescent medicine physicians, gynecologists, and anyone who wishes to learn and implement best contraceptive counseling and provision practices.

Contraception for Adolescent and Young Adult Women will be available in softcover and ebook on May 31. Preorder here.

“Cookies and Conversation with Ci3” Feb. 11

Section partner Ci3 (the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health) invites students from all disciplines to join us for an informal discussion about sexual and reproductive health issues appearing in the news and where they intersect with current research here on The University of Chicago campus.

Bring your questions, your ideas, and your lunches – we’ll bring cookies and the following Ci3 contributors:

  • Angela Heimburger, Executive Director of Ci3
  • Lee Hasselbacher, Policy Coordinator of Ci3
  • Andrea Friedman, Consultant for Ci3 and Director of Reproductive Health Programs with the National Partnership for Women & Families

“Cookies and Conversation” will take place Tuesday, February 11 from noon-1 p.m., in the Living Room space of the Institute of Politics (5707 S. Woodlawn, Chicago). Please email Lee Hasselbacher (lhasselbacher@babies.bsd.uchicago.edu) with questions.

This will be the first meeting in a monthly series, and we welcome suggestions for future topics. Hope to see you there!