Press Release: Reddit yields new information about how people make personal decisions about abortion—and how the internet shapes their decisions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 30, 2021
CORE: The Collaborative for Reproductive Equity
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Contact: Samantha Herndon
smherndon@wisc.edu

608-285-2364

Press Release: Reddit yields new information about how people make personal decisions about abortion—and how the internet shapes their decisions

A new article published by a team of researchers at the UW-Madison Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (CORE) 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 study, published in the prestigious American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, studied 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.

CORE Researchers Laura Jacques, MD, Emma Carpenter, PhD, Taryn Valley, MA, Barbara Alvarez, MS, and Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH turned to Reddit to better understand how pregnant people who want an abortion decide what type of abortion care to choose. 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.

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.

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The Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (CORE) is an initiative within the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. CORE investigators conduct rigorous, interdisciplinary research focused on reproductive health, equity, and autonomy in Wisconsin, and beyond. Visit core.wisc.edu to learn more about our research.

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