In Depth Analysis from a Cutting-Edge Pro-Life Researcher

Americans United for Life strives to keep its team of dedicated lawyers, researchers, and advocates up to date on the best available science related to pro-life issues, and we enjoy the opportunity of passing on this information to our partners and colleagues. For this reason, AUL regularly holds a briefing on current research, hosted by AUL Senior Counsel Clarke D. Forsythe. Past episodes have featured Dr. Donna Harrison of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Rev. D. Paul Sullins, Ph.D. of Catholic University, and Dr. Byron Calhoun of West Virginia University.

            This week, AUL welcomed Dr. James Studnicki, Sc.D., MPH, MBA, who serves as Vice President and Director of Data Analytics for Charlotte Lozier Institute. Dr. Studnicki was most recently the Irwin Belk Endowed Chair in Health Services Research and Professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte College of Health and Human Services. Prior to that, he served on the faculty of Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health and as Chairman of the Department of Health Policy and Management and Director of the Center for Health Outcomes Research at the University of South Florida Health Sciences Center. Dr. Studnicki’s research has focused on the use of large scale databases, and associated information technology, in analyzing outcomes at the patient, hospital and community levels.

            Dr. Studnicki began by referring to currently available abortion research as “problematic”, insofar as the peer review and publication process is largely controlled by pro-abortion research organizations. Professional medical associations such as the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association are “virulently” pro-abortion, and so are public agencies such as the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health, according to Dr. Studnicki. For this reason, he said, it’s difficult to get periodicals to give an effective look at research that comes from a pro-life standpoint. Compounding the problem is the difficulty of accessing good data on abortion; Guttmacher Institute, the best-known abortion researcher, will not share its state-by-state provider database that is collected from     voluntary surveys of abortion practitioners.

            However, Dr. Studnicki observes, Medicaid claims data is the only event-related data available that allows an examination of patient medical history (anonymized, of course). Since Medicaid pays for almost half of abortions in America, this gives researchers a window into the “epidemiology of abortion” – a way to track the history of medical care of abortion patients who are on the Medicaid rolls. Unlike most data sets, the Medicaid data enables researchers to examine the predictors and the outcomes of abortion – i.e., what comes before and abortion?  What comes after one?

            Dr. Studnicki discussed a published study that he and other researchers recently authored that demonstrates the power of this data, “Pregnancy Outcome Patterns of Medicaid-Eligible Women, 1999-2014: A National Prospective Longitudinal Study,” published in Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology. The study identified 7,388,842 pregnancy outcomes occurring to Medicaid-eligible women in the 17 states that paid for abortion services between 1999-2014. Dr. Studnicki and his co-authors concluded that abortion “influences a different trajectory for a woman’s reproductive life.” A woman who has an abortion is much more likely to have a subsequent abortion than a birth or a natural fetal loss, and this is true across all races, ethnicities, and age groups. Conversely, both births and natural fetal losses were likely to result in a subsequent birth, rather than abortion. Moreover, “Women experiencing repeated pregnancies and subsequent abortions following an index abortion are subjected to an increased exposure to hemorrhage and infection, the major causes of maternal mortality, and other adverse consequences resulting from multiple separation events,” the authors concluded.

            If you are a pro-life policy advocate and would like to be added to AUL’s invitation list for these quarterly briefings, please send an email to Life@aul.org identifying yourself and your affiliation.