A 21st-Century Public Health Approach to Abortion

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In the United States, groups advocating for and against abortion rights often deploy public health arguments to advance their positions. Recently, these arguments have evolved into state laws that use the government health department infrastructure to increase law enforcement and regulatory activities around abortion. Many major medical and public health associations oppose these new laws because they are not evidence-based and do not protect women’s health. Yet state health departments have been defending these laws in court.

We propose a 21st-century public health approach to abortion based in an accepted public health framework. Specifically, we apply the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 10 Essential Public Health Services framework to abortion to describe how health departments should engage with abortion.

With this public health framework as our guide, we argue that health departments should be facilitating women’s ability to obtain an abortion in the state and county where they reside, researching barriers to abortion care in their states and counties, and promoting the use of a scientific evidence base in abortion-related laws, policies, regulations, and implementation of essential services.

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