Exploring social worker perspectives on reporting substance use during pregnancy and abortion to government authorities
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 and surveillance of pregnancy and power dynamics in healthcare. Research on the healthcare system’s involvement in pregnancy criminalization, particularly around reporting substance use in pregnancy and abortion to government authorities, 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 reporting requirements, additional attention to their involvement with reporting substance use in pregnancy and abortion as a pathway to 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. This study aims to explore the role of social work in reporting substance use in pregnancy and abortion, using 30-40 semi-structured in-depth interviews with licensed social workers throughout the US. 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 reporting that is aligned with the profession’s commitments to dignity, self-determination and reproductive justice.