Affordable Access

The role of social support in overcoming obstacles to abortion access : Oregon women tell their stories

Publication Date
  • Abortion
  • Abortion Access
  • Social Support
  • Social Inequality
  • Oregon Health Plan
  • Obstacles To Abortion Access
  • Critical Medical Anthropology
  • Cma
  • Systems-Challenging Praxis
  • Systems-Correcting Praxis
  • Ethnography
  • Pregnancy
  • Ohp
  • Domestic Violence
  • Structural Violence
  • Structured Inequality
  • Participant-Observation
  • Clinic
  • Healthcare
  • Reproductive Health
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Applied Anthropology
  • Economics


Current estimates indicate that between one-third and one-half of women in the United States have at least one abortion in their lifetime, and that many women encounter socioeconomic, logistical, or social obstacles in the process of seeking care (Jones 2005, Guttmacher 2008). The purpose of this study is to critically examine the experiences of women in western Oregon as they seek abortion care. Specifically, I set out to answer the following research questions: 1)What obstacles or barriers, if any, do women face as they seek abortion care in western Oregon?; 2) If women do encounter obstacles or barriers to care, how do they negotiate them?; 3) What role, if any, does social support play in helping women to obtain abortion services?; and finally 4) Given the potential ethnographic relationship between obstacles and social support identified in the first part of this study, how might clinic staff and reproductive rights advocates work together to improve access to care and to reduce disparities for vulnerable populations? Using a mixed-methods approach that combined quantitative data from surveys and demographic data with qualitative data from in-depth interviews and participant-observation, I found that women in western Oregon do in fact encounter substantial obstacles in the process of seeking care. In addition, women report that social support helps them overcome obstacles, and a lack of support is experienced as an obstacle itself. Women of lower socioeconomic status encounter more barriers and have a more difficult time overcoming them. Based on these findings, this study indicates the need for improved advocacy at institutional levels, to reduce obstacles and to improve women's access to social support and other resources.

There are no comments yet on this publication. Be the first to share your thoughts.