The role of social networks in knowledge and experiences of self-managed abortion
Awarded 2019
Emerging Scholars in Family Planning
Kathleen Broussard, MA
University of Texas at Austin

Developments in new medical technologies and increased access to health-related information online have led to a surge in self-care or “DIY medicine,” loosely defined as the attempt by lay people to self-manage their healthcare outside of the formal medical setting. This study will explore the influence of social networks on a particularly stigmatized health behavior: self-managed abortion. I plan to conduct a mixed-methods study of people in a single geographic area where survey data indicate that knowledge and consideration of self-managed medication abortion are prevalent. Participants will be invited to participate in a survey offered by local community actors, to include abortion clinics, doulas, or abortion advocacy organizations. To explore differences in access to information and support across social groups, subsequent survey respondents will be recruited using respondent-driven sampling. I will conduct in-depth interviews with a subset of participants, which will include both US-born and foreign-born women for comparative analysis. This micro-level analysis of social networks within a single community will allow me to address the following questions: How do people decide who to talk to about their abortion and where to seek information? How do social networks influence attitudes and perceptions of self-management? And for whom is self-managed abortion a preferred model of care vs. a constrained choice? This study will illuminate differences in the social context of abortion-seeking and contribute to social network theory by examining the disruptive nature of stigma on the sharing of abortion-related information.