Exploring the role of social workers in criminalizing abortion and substance use during pregnancy in Louisiana and Mississippi
Awarded 2023
Emerging Scholars in Family Planning
Reiley Reed, MPH, MSW
University of California, Berkeley

Reiley Reed is a Social Welfare PhD student at UC Berkeley, where she also earned MPH and MSW degrees. She has experience conducting patient-centered contraceptive care research and developing trainings for reproductive healthcare workers. Previously, she worked at the Person-Centered Reproductive Health Program at UC San Francisco and Planned Parenthood. Her research interests include criminalization of pregnancy and power dynamics in healthcare. Research on the healthcare system’s involvement in pregnancy criminalization, particularly around mandated reporting, has focused on medical providers. However, given the role of social workers in monitoring people’s reproductive decision making and parenting, and the expectation that they have expertise in mandated reporting, additional attention to their complicity in pregnancy criminalization is needed. Further, while social workers may be called on to support people receiving abortion and perinatal services, frequently they do not receive training on best practices for providing such care. With restrictive abortion bans and mandated reporting requirements around abortion and substance use in pregnancy, Louisiana and Mississippi are important contexts in which to investigate pregnancy criminalization. The proposed study aims to explore social workers’ role in pregnancy criminalization, using 30-40 semi-structured in-depth interviews with social workers in Louisiana and Mississippi. Interviews are appropriate, as they allow for thorough, nuanced and private exploration of individuals’ experiences with and perceptions of a potentially polarizing topic. Study findings will provide critical insight into training needed to support social worker decision making around mandated reporting that is aligned with the profession’s commitments to dignity, self-determination and reproductive justice.