Welcome! My name is Yonah, and I’m proud to be a Global Health Institute Field Scholar. The team — Heidi, Bethany and I — has received generous funding from the GHI, as well as from the GEMMA Fund, to study aspects of abortion access in Uruguay. I’ll be blogging about our work, the data collection and analysis, the issues involved, our challenges.
I’m currently a student at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. I’m a dual-degree student, pursuing a Master’s in Public Health (Department of Global Health) and a Master’s in the Science of Nursing (Family Nurse Practitioner track). This will be my first visit to Latin America; I speak Spanish, but not as fluently as my teammates.
About the team:
We are all candidates for Master’s in Public Health — but we come as well from the fields of nursing and divinity, and have all had other professional experiences that inform our work. (Heidi and Bethany might guest-post at some point; they both have excellent stories to tell and interesting roads that have led them to this work.) We are each collected different public health data, but our work centers around the same theme — abortion access in Uruguay — and we will be compiling our findings to present together in the fall of 2014. So far I have mentioned the students on the team; our faculty mentors, Roger Rochat, MD and Jenny Foster, CNM, MPH, PhD, have already given us stellar guidance and support. Dr. Rochat has been working on issues of abortion access for decades, and is a professor of Global Health; Dr. Foster’s work in Latin America makes her our regional expert, but she also is an assistant professor in the Nurse-Midwifery program and works on access to obstetric and gynecological care.
About abortion access:
We know that there are barriers to access to safe abortion care worldwide. We know that, when safe abortion services are not available, abortion rates don’t decrease — they do, however, have a higher likelihood of resulting in injury, illness, or death. We also know that, where abortion is legal, it is — generally speaking — safe (Guttmacher). And we know that abortion is a very common procedure that one out of every three women will have in her lifetime (Guttmacher). As public health professionals, we are concerned about this and curious what can be done to decrease mortality (death) and morbidity (illness and injury) from unsafe abortion.
Uruguay is a small country in South America where first trimester abortion — that is, in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy — was decriminalized, with several restrictions. (“Decriminalized” means that there is no longer a criminal penalty for performing or seeking an abortion as long as all the regulations are followed. This is different from legalization.) If you get most of your news through Jezebel, as I understand some people do, you may have seen this article which was published in October 2012 when the decriminalizing law was passed, summing up the situation. Not everything is accurate — for example, Guyana is a third country in Latin America to decriminalize abortion — but it gives a helpful overview in somewhat crass and certainly partial language.
About the Global Health Institute (GHI):
The Global Health Institute at Emory funds several projects for the Emory academic community, including the Field Scholars program. This program funds interdisciplinary teams to work on global health issues. GHI also funds the Intramural Emory Case Competition and the International Emory Case Competition.
About the GEMMA Fund:
The Global Elimination of Maternal Mortality from Abortion Fund (say that ten times fast! Or say GEMMA for short) is based at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Its purpose is to fund student research on the topic. The GEMMA Fund is supporting our work as well as the work of several other Emory students this summer (for us, a southern hemisphere winter).
The intended audience is the Emory community, particularly the Schools of Nursing and of Public Health, as well as my friends and family. If others find their way to this blog, that will be a complete delight. Comments and questions are welcome, given that they are supportive/constructive.
Bethany and I leave for Montevideo, Uruguay in a matter of hours; Heidi will meet us there a few days later. We have our guidebooks, our rain jackets and warm clothes — it’s winter there — and our passports and enthusiasm. I’ll be sharing more about the details of my work and Uruguay’s history of abortion laws and relative safety of abortion, as well as the broader context of abortion access and safety in Latin America and the world.