Mobilizing abortion providers’ stories to reduce abortion stigma and legal restrictions on abortion
Awarded 2015
Interdisciplinary Innovation (Phase 1) Grants
Lisa Harris, MD, PhD
University of Michigan

This proposal brings together a creative and skilled interdisciplinary group to answer the following question: How can the stories and experiences of abortion providers be used to change public conversations about abortion, reduce abortion stigma, and stop the proliferation of state-level abortion restrictions? Two of the investigators (Harris and Martin) have developed a repository of stories of US abortion providers over the past 8 years. The stories were collected in the context of a successful human resource intervention at abortion care centers around the country. Now we wish to determine if these stories might serve a larger purpose of improving the climate for abortion care in the US. To address this, we will begin a new collaboration with two Communications Studies experts, Melanie Green, PhD, a Communications Studies professor and Amy Simon, Principal at Goodwin-Simon Strategic Research. In their scholarship and research they have each shown, using different methodological approaches, that communicating through stories has immense power to change people’s beliefs, attitudes and ultimately voting behavior, when those stories are conveyed in particular ways that attend to the emotional states of those hearing them. Harris and Martin will share what they know about abortion provider experiences, and in turn learn to apply new narrative analysis techniques to these stories. We will then convene a larger (approximately 25 person) interdisciplinary strategic planning meeting with a group experienced in communicating about abortion in different settings. This group will include the core team plus a broad range of other people who routinely communicate about abortion in their day-to-day work, including a: reproductive rights attorney, film documentarian, psychotherapist, Michigan legislator, bioethicist, visual artist, reproductive justice advocate, health-system leader, journalist, and religious leader. The aim of this larger meeting will be to consider a range of ways in which to communicate the narrative messages identified by the core team, and then to develop a Phase 2 research plan to test the effects of these narratives and communication strategies across a range of media and in a range of populations. Ultimately our team’s goal is to use abortion providers’ stories and voices to shift the ways in which abortion is represented and understood in this country, and to guide abortion providers who wish to speak about their work.