Some of the members of the Turnaway Study team reflect on their experiences from working on the study.
More than 40 researchers from nine universities and four research institutes from across the country—project directors, interviewers, epidemiologists, demographers, sociologists, economists, psychologists, statisticians, nurses, and public health scientists—collaborated for over a decade to carry out this study. See what the team currently at UCSF says about the study below.
It was one of the highlights of my career, and joys of my life, to lead the Turnaway team with Diana. The commitment and passion of the interviewers, the dedication and rigor of the researchers, and, most of all, the resiliency and generosity of each person who honored us with their story, all astounding and an honor to witness. In a time when good science is more important than ever, I am constantly reminded that it is the good people behind the science — those who conduct it and those who participate in it — who are the real stars.Rana E. Barar, MPH | Senior Project Director | Bio | Twitter
In studying the mental health experiences of women seeking abortion, I was disheartened to learn of the many other life circumstances — violence and abuse — that these women have survived and described as the source of their mental health symptoms. It really struck me what an injustice it is for legislators and others to focus on how the abortion causes mental health harm, instead of examining the constellation of experiences that shape these women’s lives. The women who participated in the Turnaway Study are a source of inspiration and resilience.M. Antonia Biggs, PhD | Associate Researcher | Bio
What strikes me most about the study findings is how the context of pregnant people’s lives — whether they have a supportive partner or family, whether they live above or below the poverty line, or whether they live in a state with more or less restrictive abortion laws, for example — can so drastically influence not only their access to abortion but, also, the trajectory of their lives. If we care about justice, we can and should do a lot more as a society to support people and families before, during, and after pregnancy.Heather Gould, MPH | Project Director | Bio
When the Turnaway Study started, I thought the main findings would be about abortion. I was struck by how much the study taught us about what it means to have a baby — and how important the social safety net is for women like the Turnaway Study participants.Katrina Kimport, PhD | Associate Professor | Bio
The Turnaway Study was one of the first studies I worked on and it served as my introduction to the world of research. It was such an honor to work alongside such phenomenal women scientists — women who are committed to high quality rigorous research and maintaining thoughtfulness and respect for our study population. The Turnaway Study has been an amazing journey to watch and even more special to be a part of.Jasmine Powell | Project Manager | Bio
Being a part of the Turnaway Study has enabled me to collaborate with and learn so much from my colleagues across disciplines and across international borders. It has been eye-opening to discover that people across the world — in the US, Nepal, South Africa, Colombia, Tunisia, and Bangladesh — experience similar barriers to accessing legal abortion care. In the US, I have been particularly surprised to learn that being denied an abortion negatively impacts not only the life and well being of the pregnant woman but also that of her existing and future children.Sarah Raifman, MSc | Project Director | Bio
Being a part of the Turnaway Study has been inspirational early in my research career. It has shown me that a rigorous study design, dedicated scientists, and some “outside of the box” thinking are necessary to tackle some of the most complex and difficult questions facing our field. As I move forward with my own research on people’s experiences with abortion, I am excited to take the lessons of the Turnaway Study with me — to not shy away from difficult questions, to take advantage of innovative study designs to give us more sound/unbiased evidence, and to give voice to people’s triumphs, challenges, and experiences through our research.Lauren Ralph, PhD, MPH | Assistant Professor | Bio
From working on the Turnaway Study, I learned how to conduct high quality rigorous scientific research about the impacts of policies that affect women's reproductive health and lives. Working on the Turnaway Study led me to do further research to understand whether and how state-level restrictive abortion policies — such as 72-hour waiting periods and limits on Medicaid coverage of abortion — affect women.Sarah Roberts, DrPH | Associate Professor | Bio | Twitter
Through my work on the Turnaway Study, I was struck by the diversity and, for some, evolving nature of people’s feelings about a pregnancy for which they sought an abortion. Our findings showed that people make pregnancy decisions based on their sometimes complex, sometimes difficult, life circumstances and social environments. And those circumstances and environments then, in turn, shape people’s emotions about their abortion or denial of abortion over the years afterwards.Corinne Rocca, PhD, MPH | Associate Professor | Bio
I studied why and whether women who were denied abortions placed their infants for adoption — almost one in 10 did. This number was surprisingly high (when compared to the less than 1% of women who typically choose adoption) and also surprisingly low (given that this group of women was highly motivated to avoid parenting). Adoption is a constrained choice: when abortion is unavailable, more women will place infants for adoption. But if they have meaningful abortion access, very few women will.Gretchen Sisson, PhD | Associate Researcher | Bio
What has surprised me the most has been the positive outcomes for participants who actually received their abortions. My own work on the Turnaway Study found that those who got their abortions were more likely to achieve positive life goals and have wanted pregnancies later. In the national conversation about abortion, we really aren’t talking about how abortion helps women in these ways.Ushma Upadhyay, PhD, MPH | Associate Professor | Bio | Twitter
I loved having multiple rich sources of data with which to investigate people's attitudes about abortion. Using in-depth interviews to shed light on the quantitative findings helped us illuminate how people’s perspectives on abortion respond to context and change over time. It was very satisfying to have the mixed data sources to be able to explore this complex topic in a nuanced way.Katie Woodruff, DrPH | Assistant Professional Researcher | Bio | Twitter