Amid Abortion Debate, the Pursuit of Science - ProPublica
NM: What are some of the main challenges to doing abortion research in this country?
TW: The federal government has a prohibition on funding any research that involves abortion care. You cannot get funding from the National Institutes of Health to study, say, abortion techniques — how to make it safer. But this ban has been interpreted very, very broadly to preclude funding anything involving abortion, even a topic like women’s emotional responses. That has left the funding of research on abortion to the philanthropic community.
Now, it’s very unusual for foundations to fund clinical research. It’s not historically what they do — research is the domain of government. But in the last 10 years, there’s been recognition in the philanthropic community that in order to make progress [on reproductive rights], whether culturally or politically or in the service-delivery arena, there are research questions that we need to answer.
This [private funding] has opened up an enormous avenue for researchers who are interested in questions about abortion care, abortion policy, and abortion in American culture. But it comes with its own downside, which is that people are very suspect of research that is funded by organizations that have particular ideological agendas.