WHO study, Ireland (2020-2021)
During 2020-2021, I was the PI on a WHO research study “Policy Implementation – Access to Safe Abortion Services in the Republic of Ireland,” which examines barriers and facilitators to policy implementation since January 2019. I was based in Dublin July – October 2020 to conduct fieldwork.
On April 26, 2023, the Irish Department of Health completed their comprehensive Report which reviewed the first 3 years of the abortion policy implementation. Our research study provided a significant evidence base for this review.
The Report titled, “The Independent Review of the Operation of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018” can be found here: https://www.gov.ie/pdf/?file=https://assets.gov.ie/255442/bda412d4-9538-47a5-8abc-ce22826bbae6.pdf#page=null
European Research Council 5-country (2016-2022), European Framework Programme HORIZON 2020
Between 2016 and 2022, together with a team of colleagues based in Europe and the US, we’ve been conducting extensive and interdisciplinary research funded by the European Research Council with women and pregnant people who travel across regional, national, and international borders in Europe to seek abortion care far from their place of residence. We carried out data collection in the United Kingdom (England and Wales), Spain, France, Italy, and the Netherlands.
Many thanks to my long-time collaborators on this study: Silvia De Zordo (U. of Barcelona, Spain), Caitlin Gerdts (Ibis Reproductive Health, USA), Giulia Zanini (U. of Barcelona, Spain), Laura Rahm (Central European University, Austria), Giulia Colavolpe Severi (U. of Barcelona, Spain), David Palma Díaz (Maastricht University, NL), Derek Clougher (U. of Barcelona, Spain), Ann Katherin Ziegler (U. of Barcelona, Spain), Natalia Alonso-Rey (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain), Irene Capelli (U. of Barcelona, Spain), Anastasia Martino (U. of Barcelona, Spain), and Lieta Vivaldi (Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile).
Here’s our project website www.europeabortionaccessproject.org with our research publications, conferences, webinars, and other dissemination work, as well as relevant news and events.
My past research in Poland and Ireland sparked my interest to understand the politics of reproduction in Malta, an EU country of less than half a million people living on an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a place where the Catholic church and close church-state relations have been decisive in shaping sexual and reproductive rights. Recently, however, things have been rapidly changing there as evidenced in major policy shifts. For example, the Maltese had no way of divorcing until 2011 when divorce was finally legalized by a national referendum. Only five years later in 2016, the Ministry of Health approved over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception (Plan B), and the legalization of same sex marriage followed in 2017. All of these policy changes were intensely opposed by the church, making these rapid shifts extraordinary.
Why Malta? Currently a debate about decriminalization of abortion is intensifying in Malta, making it an important place to watch reproductive policy developments. I’m interested in how political and social movements to expand reproductive rights emerge and what sustains them. I’ve had the chance to visit Malta in 2018, 2019, and in April-May 2022 I served as a Fulbright Specialist at the University of Malta, where I had the opportunity to engage with Maltese gender scholars.
Brocher Foundation Residency, Switzerland (2018-2019)
I spent July 2018 at the Brocher Foundation in Hermance as a Visiting Researcher to conduct data analysis and write about my sabbatical work. The Brocher Foundation promotes international and multidisciplinary research in the field of health, policy, law, and bioethics. During the residency I had a chance to network with scholars in social sciences and public health working on health policy issues. I also had the opportunity to attend talks and discuss my fieldwork with researchers at the World Health Organization. In 2019, I was invited by the Foundation to the Brocher Alumni Meeting (below).
Brocher Foundation Residency & Symposium, Switzerland (2015)
In the summer 2015, I held the Brocher Foundation Residency in Hermance, Switzerland. With 13 other colleagues from Canada, Denmark, Ireland, the UK, the US, and Australia, I had the opportunity to think and write about my research on Assisted Reproductive Technologies and questions of policy and regulation (or lack of) which have been of research interest in the last couple of years, both pertaining to my work in Poland on the in-vitro debate, and the larger European policy context.
During my Residency, my colleague Magda Radkowska-Walkowicz (medical anthropologist at the University of Warsaw) and I organized The Brocher Symposium which brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars and experts involved in research, publication, and advocacy work in the area of ART policy, health care policy, bioethics, patient rights, and patient experiences with ARTs. The range of speakers covered several disciplinary areas, including medical anthropology, sociology, bioethics, law, and reproductive rights advocacy. Symposium Program PDF
Understanding reproductive health advocacy, Poland (2014-2015)
In the summers of 2014 and 2015, I conducted research in Warsaw, Poland titled, “Understanding Advocacy Work in the Struggle for ‘In Vitro’ Regulation in Poland.” In this project my objective was to examine the work of the Our Stork (Nasz Bocian) non-governmental organization (NGO), which was advocating for the establishment of state policy that would regulate infertility health services in Poland. Our Stork — The Association for Infertility Treatment and the Support of Adoption — is the main NGO in Poland devoted to this issue. Since 2002, this group had been advocating for a change in the current health policy to regulate “in vitro” — or assisted reproductive technology (ART) — services and to include them in the national healthcare coverage. Access to infertility care is highly stratified as only the wealthiest are able to access this care in Poland (as is the case in other countries). (The image below is from a feminist conference in Warsaw and comments on the growing anti-gender political rhetoric.)
From 2013 to 2015, together with two colleagues we have completed an interdisciplinary research project in London, the United Kingdom, titled, “Experiences of Non-Resident Abortion Seekers in the United Kingdom: A Pilot Study.” My co-Investigators were S. De Zordo, Ph.D., University of Barcelona, and C. Gerdts, Ph.D. University of California – San Francisco. Our work was funded by the European Society of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care.
Religion and medicine, Ireland (2009-2010)
In the summers of 2009 and 2010 I conducted six months of fieldwork in Ireland reproductive health providers, primarily general practitioners (GPs) and secondarily obstetrician/gynecologists (Ob/Gyns). The aim of the study was to explore doctors’ perspectives at the intersection of religion and medicine by examining how Irish doctors understand the influence of Catholicism and the Church in their medical practice in the area of reproductive health. My approach was to include doctors’ religious and medical trajectories as well as perspectives and experiences regarding family planning policies and abortion travel. Following a national referendum in 2018 abortion access in Ireland has expanded substantially.
Poland (2000-2002, 2007)
Between 2000 and 2002, I conducted doctoral fieldwork in Poland, and in 2007 I carried out my postdoctoral work there. My research focused on reproductive health and policies, family planning, and reproductive rights and justice advocacy. My work was funded by Fulbright Scholarship, and the Ellertson Postdoctoral fieldwork grant.
(Images: J. Mishtal)
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