A new article published by CORE Researchers Laura Jacques, MD, Emma Carpenter, PhD, Taryn Valley, MA, Barbara Alvarez, MS, and Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH was recently published in the prestigious American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors innovatively studied Reddit users to cast a revealing light on the barriers facing people as they choose whether to have an in-clinic abortion or a pill abortion at home. The article is titled, “Medication or surgical abortion? An exploratory study of patient decision making on a popular social media platform.” The researchers analyzed Reddit users’ posts about their abortion experiences, revealing four key themes:
- Structural Barriers, such as concerns about cost and transportation;
- Emotional Experiences, such as desiring the support of the clinic staff in cases where a pregnant person did not have family or friend support;
- Pregnancy Profiles, such as when someone has an underlying medical condition;
- Process-Specific Concerns, such as the length of the appointment.
Reddit, a website used by nearly a quarter of US-based young adults, with over two million user-created message boards, provides a unique source of information. Online anonymity may make the internet appealing for those seeking abortion information, and anonymity is a key feature of Reddit. The researchers approach made it possible to study people’s decision making before they ever have an abortion; most research to-date focuses on people who have already had a procedural or pill abortion.
Barring specific medical reasons in the first trimester, people can select the abortion method that feels most comfortable to them. An in-clinic abortion involves a brief procedure and is often performed in outpatient clinics. A pill abortion can be accomplished in people’s own home, but in many states, including Wisconsin, patients are required to make one or more visits to a clinic to obtain medications and/or follow-up care. Some Reddit users expressed a preference for being in a health clinic setting with professional providers present, while others wanted the privacy of their own homes.
The novel use of social media as a source of information about patient decision making offers a unique opportunity for researchers to capture the thoughts and experiences of people who have not yet or may never make it to a clinic. The study presents a new source of data for researchers going forward that can inform abortion policy, information, and provision of care.
Read the full study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology here.