Portrait

Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH
Director, Division of Pop Health, Professor Gender & Women's Studies and ObGyn
Director UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (CORE)

Reproductive and Population Health



Secondary Email:
jenny.a.higgins@wisc.edu


Administrative Assistants

Elizabeth Albert
egalbert@wisc.edu
608-265-2621 Stefanie Eggers
saeggers@wisc.edu
608-262-3185

Bio

Jenny Higgins is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and of Gender and Women’s Studies and Director of UW CORE, the Collabortive for Reproductive Equity. Trained in both gender studies and public health, Jenny conducts mixed-methods research on abortion, contraception, and other aspects of reproductive health. Over 60 peer-reviewed publications, many co-authored with trainees and mentees, share results from this research. She serves on the editorial boards of both Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health and The Journal of Sex Research, and she was a member of the board of Directors of the Guttmacher Institute from 2011-2018. An award-winning teacher, Jenny also teaches what we think is the largest women, gender, and health class in the country: GWS 103.


Education

1997 BA Women's Studies, Colby College, Waterville, Maine
2005 MPH Global Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
2005 PhD Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
2007 NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship HIV/AIDS and Sexuality, Columbia University, New York, New York

Department Leadership Role

Director, UW CORE (Collaborative for Reproductive Equity)


Memberships

Society for Family Planning

American Public Health Association

International Academy for Sex Research


Additional Resources:

For more information on Jenny Higgins' work, please visit her professional website.


Dr. Higgins' Professional Website

I conduct mixed-methods research on sexuality, gender, and reproductive health—especially contraception and abortion. In all of my research and advocacy, I endeavor to help folks achieve their sexual health goals—for example, avoiding unwanted pregnancy and STIs, maximizing sexual well-being—within the context of their lives, relationships, and communities. For more information, please see jennyhiggins.net


UW-Madison Collaborative for Reproductive Equity

Sponsor(s): A large, anonymous family foundation and The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Graduate Education and Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Collaborative for Reproductive Equity, or UW CORE, is a campus-wide initiative focused on reproductive health research, healthcare access and delivery, policy evaluation, and communication to address critical needs in reproductive health and healthcare in Wisconsin. CORE is led by Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Obstetrics and Gynecology, Associate Director Amy Williamson, MPP, and a team of interdisciplinary researchers, trainees, and engagement and communications specialists.


Higgins to lead panel on reproductive health at Ripon College, March 21

UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, will co-lead a panel discussion at Ripon College titled “The State of Women’s Health in Wisconsin​” on March 21, 2024. The in-person event begins at 6:30pm.

Discussion topics include reproductive health, chronic health conditions, depression and postpartum maternal health, infant mortality and minority women facing mortality disparities, with opportunities for questions from the audience.

Learn more about the event here.


Green, Higgins cited in WPR article about Wisconsin birth rates

​Tiffany Green, PhD, associate professor in the Division of Reproductive and Population Health, and Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, professor and director of the UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity and Division of Reproductive and Population Health, were cited in a recent Wisconsin Public Radio story about the effects of overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022 on Wisconsin birth rates.

In “How did the Dobbs decisions affect the birth rate in Wisconsin,” WPR analyzed a new study that found out Wisconsin birth rates rose by 2.5 percent, estimating that 1,503 more births were directly related to the Dobbs decision. An opinion piece written by Green and Higgins for the Wisconsin State Journal was referenced for arguments they made in terms of Wisconsin communities.

When the Dobbs decision was announced, Wisconsin abortion providers stopped offering their services, forcing patients to travel further for safe abortions.

“In our role as scientists and public health professionals, we conclude that the evidence is clear: Restrictions and policies in our state that make abortion inaccessible and unaffordable harm the health and well-being of Wisconsin families,” said Green and Higgins.

Read the full article here.

**by Ob-Gyn Communications Intern Paige Stevenson


Higgins, Green publish editorial in Wisconsin State Journal

UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity and Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, and associate professor Tiffany Green, PhD, co-authored an article in the Wisconsin State Journal.

In “Dobbs forced at least 1,500 unintended births, causing harm to Wisconsin communities”, Higgins and Green cite a nationwide study documenting the effect of the Dobbs decision on fertility rates in the first half of 2023. They then outline the impacts of limits to abortion access:

“Why does this matter? It matters because science tells us that individuals, families and communities are harmed in many ways by restricting people's ability to access abortion. One major harm is an increase in pregnancy-related mortality.”

Read the whole article here.


Higgins authors chapter in new edition of Contraceptive Technology

Division of Reproductive and Population Health and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Health Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, co-authored the sixth chapter in the 22nd edition of Contraceptive Technology. Co-authors of the chapter include Patty Cason, MS, FNP-PC, Jessica N. Sanders, PhD, MSPH.

In Chapter Six, “Sexuality and Contraception,” Higgins and co-authors identified different contraceptive methods and their impacts on a patient’s sex life. They also discuss sexual acceptability of contraception and how to provide patient-centered care in conversations around sexuality and contraception.

Contraceptive Technology provides students and experts in obstetrics and gynecology with information and updates around contraceptive use and related reproductive health issues. The newest edition focuses on developments in the field, especially in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

More information on Contraceptive Technology can be found here.

**by Ob-Gyn Communications Intern Paige Stevenson


Higgins presents post-Dobbs research perspectives to HHS, NASEM

UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director and Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, brought important perspectives on reproductive health research in a post-Dobbs landscape to two national leadership organizations this fall.

In late September 2023, Higgins and UW CORE Research Scientist Jane Seymour, PhD, MPH, presented at a post-Dobbs research roundtable organized by the US Department of Health and Human Services and moderated by Alison Cernich, PhD, deputy director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Other speakers on the panel included the Director of the White House Gender Policy Council.

In early October, Higgins traveled to Washington, D.C. to present at a special session at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, along with other state-based abortion researchers, about the need for bringing reproductive health research to higher prominence in their national research agenda.

Incredible work, Dr. Higgins!


Higgins, Williamson co-author editorial in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Just before the one-year anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, and Associate Director Amy Williamson, MPP, co-authored an opinion in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In “Even if Wisconsin abortion ban overturned, women will face obstacles to care”, Higgins and Williamson outlined some of the most notable changes to abortion rates and access in our state and shared insights into barriers to abortion access that affected peoples’ options even before the decision last year:

“…while Dobbs was a seismic change to the reproductive healthcare landscape, many Wisconsinites already lacked access to abortion care. Before the ruling, the Guttmacher Institute had classified Wisconsin as hostile to abortion due to a slew of non-evidence-based laws that reduced access, including perhaps the most onerous medication abortion restrictions in the country.”

 Read the whole opinion article here.


In the News: Higgins reflects on abortion access one year after Dobbs decision

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, 2023, UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director and UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, spoke with news outlets about the consequences of restricted abortion access in Wisconsin and beyond.

One year into Wisconsin's abortion ban, struggle over access continues across state borders – Wisconsin Public Radio

In this story, Higgins discusses whether people in Wisconsin who desire abortion care are leaving the state to get it:

“"While less restrictive states such as Illinois and Minnesota have seen increases in the number of abortions, those increases do not make up for the decreases and restrictive states such as Wisconsin," she said.””

Wisconsin a year after the Dobbs decision – As Goes Wisconsin

In this radio interview, Higgins shared data about the first year without legal abortion in Wisconsin, as well reflections on how the ban affects families, communities, and the economy:

“At the larger level, we know that in the months leading up to the Dobbs decision, about 590, about 600 abortions were taking place in Wisconsin every month…and then that number has gone to virtually zero. That equates to, in the course of a year, about 7,000 abortions that have not taken place in Wisconsin that would have taken place if the Dobbs decision had not gone into effect.”

Statewide Consequences Of Restricted Abortion Access – Wisconsin Latino News


Higgins talks contraceptive access issues with Tone

A recent article on Tone Madison covered peoples’ emerging concerns about contraceptive access following the US Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs that struck down Roe v. Wade.

In the article “Contraception has a new weight post-Roe in Madison”, UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, talked about an additional challenge many Wisconsinites may encounter when looking for contraceptive care: Catholic-owned health institutions.

“…rural women in Wisconsin are three times more likely than urban women to expect that a Catholic hospital will offer the full range of contraceptive methods. The November 2021 study was published in the journal Contraception​.

“This is a huge inequity that affects people in rural parts of our state that are solely served by Catholic health care systems where they can’t just go down the street to a Planned Parenthood,” says Jenny Higgins, an author on the study and a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UW-Madison.”

Read the whole article here!


Jacques publishes study in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

A new study by Laura Jacques, MD, associate professor in the Division of Academic Specialists in Obstetrics and Gynecology, uses anonymous posts on social media to document the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on people’s abortion experiences in the United States.

“I'm going to be forced to have a baby”: A study of COVID-19 abortion experiences on Reddit”, published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, evaluated three week’s worth of anonymous posts on a Reddit forum about abortion to see how pandemic restrictions affected abortion care. The study team of Jacques, Taryn Valley, Shimin Zhao, Madison Lands, Natalie Rivera, and Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, identified a variety of themes in the posts, including access issues, privacy challenges, and more:

“In this study, we documented the stress, fear, and despair experienced by abortion seekers during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when newly implemented healthcare policies dictated sudden changes to abortion access. Our findings may provide insight into how abortion seekers might experience other sudden changes in abortion access, whether due to future public health emergencies or changes in law and policy.”

Read the whole study here.


Higgins joins WORT to talk about future of medication abortion in Wisconsin

Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, director of the UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health and the UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity, spoke with WORT Community Radio in Madison about recent federal court rulings around FDA approval of the drug mifepristone and what it could mean for abortion and miscarriage patients.

In “What Now For Medication Abortions?”, Higgins discussed medication abortion restrictions in Wisconsin prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, national data about changes in abortion access across the United States since June 2022, and what decisions about mifepristone might mean for self-managed abortions:

“There was one ruling in recent weeks that had an important implication that restricted the use of mail for mifepristone distribution. So essentially, if that particular case were to come through, it would be against the law everywhere to ship and receive mifepristone by mail. And that in Wisconsin would potentially increase the criminalization of people who use self-managed medication abortions.”

Listen to the whole interview here.


Higgins discusses #WeCount survey in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A recent article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel summarizes findings from the Society of Family Planning’s #WeCount report that highlights a marked decline in abortions performed across the United States since the June 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

In “National report finds sharp decline in abortions in the U.S. since Dobbs decision”, UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, shared insight on what the data might tell us about people traveling to other states for abortion care:

"One of the things that people had expected after Dobbs was that states like California would get an influx of people ... states with relatively few restrictions," Higgins said. "What the #WeCount report shows is that we haven't seen the flooding into those states."

Read the whole article here.


Jacques, Higgins co-author article in Wisconsin Medical Journal

Laura Jacques, MD, assistant professor in the UW Ob-Gyn Division of Academic Specialists in Ob-Gyn, and Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, director of the UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity and Division of Reproductive and Population Health, are co-authors on a new study in the Wisconsin Medical JournalTaryn Valley, MA, an MD-PhD student in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, is lead author on the study.

In “‘The Biggest Problem With Access’: Provider Reports of the Effects of Wisconsin 2011 Act 217 Medication Abortion Legislation”, authors interviewed abortion care providers about how a Wisconsin law banning telemedicine for medication abortion affected abortion provision:

“Providers interviewed universally reported that Act 217 negatively affected abortion care, with the same-physician requirement especially increasing risk to patients and demoralizing providers. Interviewees emphasized the lack of medical need for this legislation and explained that Act 217 and the previously enacted 24-hour waiting period worked synergistically to decrease access to medication abortion, disproportionately affecting rural and low-income Wisconsinites. Finally, providers felt Wisconsin’s legislative ban on telemedicine medication abortion should be lifted." 

Read the whole study here!


Cutler, Higgins publish in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

In new research published in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, UW Ob-Gyn Assistant Professor Abigail Cutler, MD, UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity and Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, and co-authors use survey data to examine factors associated with physicians' level of concern and perceived consequences of publicly supporting abortion. Co-authors on the publication include postdoctoral research associate Laura Swan, PhD, and CORE Research Program Manager Madison Lands, MSW, MPH.

In “Characterizing physician concerns with publicly supporting abortion at Wisconsin's largest medical school”, the authors evaluated survey responses from physicians who expressed support for abortion to identify their perceived concerns about taking public stances on abortion:

“Nearly a quarter (22%) of respondents felt very or extremely concerned that taking a strong public stance on abortion would alienate patients and 17% felt very or extremely concerned that doing so would alienate coworkers. More than a quarter (27%) felt very or extremely concerned that publicly supporting abortion would lead to harassment or harm. Those with greater concerns about expressing public support for abortion were comparatively less willing to refer for or participate in abortion care themselves.”

Read the whole study here!  


Higgins talks about crisis pregnancy centers with Cap Times

A recent article in the Cap Times dives into crisis pregnancy centers in Wisconsin and nationwide. “Do crisis pregnancy centers help women or mislead them?” discusses the importance of understanding what crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are and offer in light of statewide abortion restrictions.

Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, director of the UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health and the UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity, talked about the complexity of CPCs and the importance of clarifying what services they do and do not offer:

“She believes more people considering abortions and hoping to get either out-of-state or in-state assistance will visit or call CPCs who don't realize what they are. Search engine algorithms aren’t always reliable when looking for abortion resources, she added.

“I think we'll have a lot of people looking for how to get abortions, where to get abortions, who will be directed to CPCs and will not end up getting where they need to go,” she added.”

Read the whole article here!


Cutler and Higgins talk about impact of abortion restrictions with National Public Radio

recent story on National Public Radio profiled a Wisconsin woman whose pregnancy plans changed in light of abortion restrictions in the state. UW Ob-Gyn Assistant Professor Abby Cutler, MD, and Division of Reproductive and Population Health and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (CORE) Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, both added perspective to the story.

Cutler talked about the challenges patients and providers face in navigating the current legal restrictions:

“For doctors and patients in Wisconsin trying to live with an abortion ban in legal limbo, "the level of confusion and uncertainty and – [even] chaos – that this has injected into the provision of all sorts of pregnancy-related health care, not just induced abortion, cannot be overstated," Cutler says.”

CORE will work to measure the impacts of Wisconsin’s abortion ban. But Higgins says pregnancy intentions are nuanced, and some effects of the ban will be hard to quantify:

“"I think on balance, there'll be more people who want abortions who can't get them than people who want babies and choose not to have them because of these policies," she says. "But there'll still be a group of people – like [Petranek] – who are opting out of having another baby, and that has a major impact on their own hopes and dreams about family-making."”

Read or listen to the whole story here.  


CORE researchers publish conference abstracts in Contraception

Faculty, researchers and trainees in the UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity brought posters and presentations to the 2022 Society of Family Planning annual meeting in Baltimore, MD in December. Three abstracts presented at the conference were published in Contraception!

Characterizing physician concerns with publicly supporting abortion – AS Cutler, LT Swan, M Lands, NB Schmuhl, JA Higgins

Physician beliefs about abortion safety and their participation in abortion care – LT Swan, AS Cutler, M Lands, NB Schmuhl, JA Higgins

Covid-19 abortion experiences on reddit: A qualitative study – L Jacques, T Valley, S Zhao, N Rivera, M Lands, JA Higgins

Congratulations to all!


Swan, Cutler, Higgins in publish study in AJOG

A new article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology uses data from a 2019 survey of UW SMPH physicians to assess physicians’ understanding of whether contraceptive methods work by causing abortion. Laura Swan, PhD, LCSW, postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Population Health Sciences Green Inequality Lab, is first author on the study.

In “Physician Beliefs about Contraceptive Methods as Abortifacients”, Swan and co-authors (including UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH and Abby Cutler, MD, assistant professor in the UW Ob-Gyn Division of Academic Specialists in Ob-Gyn) asked physicians whether they thought six common contraceptive methods worked by causing abortion. The authors then compared provider demographics with beliefs about contraception.

“Misconceptions about contraceptive methods were more common among male physicians than female physicians…Medical specialty was associated with the belief that IUDs and EC work by causing abortion.”

Read the whole study here!


In the News: Higgins talks about state of reproductive health care access

Since the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June 2022, overturning the constitutionally protected right to abortion, UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH spoke with several news outlets to answer questions about the current landscape of abortion access in Wisconsin.

The Path to Restoring Abortion Access in Wisconsin Hinges on the November Midterms – Mother Jones

The State of Abortion in Wisconsin – Milwaukee Magazine

Higgins represents the research perspective in a wide-ranging feature in Milwaukee Magazine about the future of abortion access and legal challenges in Wisconsin:

“Jenny Higgins didn’t need the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade to illuminate the impact of an abortion ban on Wisconsin’s social and medical landscape. “This notion that suddenly abortion is unavailable is not true,” Higgins says, the director of UW-Madison’s Collaborative for Reproductive Equity. “Abortion has been unavailable for so many people in our country for a long time.””

Read the whole feature here.

After Roe v. Wade, abortion bans from the 1800s became legal matters in these states – USA Today

An article from USA Today examines how century-old laws on the books in several states are affecting abortion access in the absence of federal protection from Roe v. Wade, including a Wisconsin law from 1849 that bans abortion:

“"Even though the actual enforceability of the ban is unclear, the reality of abortion care here is that it is unavailable," the University of Wisconsin's Higgins said. "That to me is the most important thing, what actually is happening on the ground."”

Read the whole story here.


Higgins named new Jeanne Bissell Professor in Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Please help us congratulate UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity and UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, who was recently named the next Jeanne Bissell Professor in Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice! Higgins and Bissell, longtime supporter of the UW Department of Ob-Gyn, were honored at the first-ever UW School of Medicine and Public Health Faculty Investiture Celebration on October 12, 2022.

The Jeanne Bissell Professor is awarded to a faculty member whose main educational focus for faculty, residents, students, and staff is in reproductive justice. Reproductive justice includes, but is not limited to, evidence-based information and access to the full range of healthcare associated with family planning, including pregnancy termination. Learn more about the Jeanne Bissell Professorship here.

Congratulations, Dr. Higgins!


Higgins discusses abortion misinformation with CNN

After the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June, misinformation about self-managed abortions has blown up on social media. CNN reporters spoke with experts across the country, including UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity and UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, about self-managed abortion (SMA) myths.

In “Doctors worry that online misinformation will push abortion-seekers toward ineffective, dangerous methods”, Higgins discussed a possible, unexpected impact of using unproven methods for SMA:

“"Someone might look into alternatives such as herbs, spend time trying to gather information, procure that substance, take the herb, take it again, take it again, and by then, they are later in gestation and maybe even less likely to be able to access effective methods," Higgins said.

"There's a real-time constraint here," she said. "The later people are in gestation, the more effort that needs to be involved in the abortion."”

Read the whole article here!


In the News: Higgins shares insights in post-Roe reporting

Since the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, overturning the constitutionally protected right to abortion, UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH spoke with several news outlets to answer questions about what the decision may mean for abortion access in Wisconsin. 

Higgins has shared her expertise with publications like the New York Times, Mother Jones, Wisconsin Public Radio, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and more:

Century-Old State Laws Could Determine Where Abortion Is Legal – New York Times

In this article, Higgins discussed public impressions of Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban.

In a post-Roe world, some medical students rethink plans to practice in Wisconsin – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (paywall)

In this article, Higgins discusses the impacts of abortion restrictions on physician training, and possible downstream effects on the physician workforce in Wisconsin:

““We have an excellent reputation, but people’s interest in coming here to be students, to be residents, to be faculty will be diminished if it’s thought of as a place hostile to abortion, where legislators interfere with the practice of medicine and people cannot get trained in this type of care even if they do not practice this type of care themselves,” Higgins said.”

Out-of-state abortion providers prepare to help Wisconsin patients after Supreme Court overturns Roe – Wisconsin Public Radio

In this article, Higgins shares research from CORE about clinic closures, birth rates, and people’s health:

“Jenny Higgins, a professor and director of the Collaborative for Reproductive Equity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said their research has also shown an increase in birth rates in Wisconsin in recent years due to abortion clinic closures. Higgins said Wisconsin's abortion ban will have devastating impacts on people's health and wellbeing in Wisconsin.”

Why Progressive Prosecutors Won’t Save Us in a Post-Roe World – Mother Jones

Local experts weigh in on the potential consequences regarding Roe v. Wade’s overturn – Channel 3000

In this interview, Higgins discusses the likely consequence of increased maternal morbidity and mortality following Roe’s fall.

Many women confused by the difference between abortion pills and emergency contraceptives – WKOW

Higgins outlines the ways emergency contraception and abortion pills work, and emphasizes the difference between the two:

“"It's extremely important to know that emergency contraception works by preventing pregnancy and that the abortion pills work by causing a pregnancy to end," said UW Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Jenny Higgins, Ph.D., MPH.”

Doctors deal with uncertainty, ethical decisions tied to abortion ruling – Spectrum News

In this interview, Higgins discussed some of the challenges and confusion faced by clinical care providers in light of the Dobbs decision:

“Higgins said that health care providers are in a holding pattern now, as they wait for some sort of clarity about what will be allowed under current law, specifically whether or not Wisconsin's law from 1849 banning abortion is actually in effect and what qualifies as an exception to provide an abortion to help save the life of an expectant mother.”


Cutler and Higgins discuss possible impacts of Roe decision on physician training

A recent article in the Wisconsin Examiner investigated potential difficulties for physician training programs after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Medical training programs teach abortion procedures. What happens if abortion is outlawed? outlines the national standards for training set by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which requires a family planning curriculum and the option for resident physicians to be trained in the provision of abortion.

In the article, UW Ob-Gyn assistant professor Abigail Cutler, MD, discusses the potential downstream effects of limiting training in abortion procedures:

“In surveys of OB/GYN doctors, those who have had less training in abortion care or none at all have reported that they “felt less prepared to offer comprehensive care to people who are experiencing a miscarriage,” Cutler says. For doctors with more exposure to and practice in abortion care, “there was a correlation between that and their comfort level with surgically managing miscarriage later on.””

Also in the article, Division of Reproductive and Population Health and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, MD, MPH, shares results from UW research that found broad support for abortion among physicians:

“In 2019, the Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (CORE) at the UW medical school polled the school’s doctors on the impact of restrictions on abortion that had been enacted since 2011. More than 900 doctors responded to the survey, and more than 90% said overturning Roe v Wade “would worsen Wisconsin women’s health,” says Jenny Higgins, CORE’s director. 

“We surveyed people across all medical specialties, and we found overwhelming support for abortion services as well as abortion providers,” Higgins says. In addition to the concerns for women’s health, a majority said that more restrictions on abortion “make it more difficult to recruit faculty and trainees.””

Read the whole article here.


Higgins discusses future of abortion research in challenging atmosphere with STAT

A new article in STAT talks to researchers who specialize in reproductive health about what the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 decision overturning Roe v. Wade might mean for research about abortion in the future.

In “These researchers study abortion in states likely to ban it. That will make their jobs even harder, UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH provides perspective on why research on reproductive health care access is more important now than ever:

“It will also prove difficult for the researchers themselves, who already face an uphill battle trying to do rigorous evaluation in such a highly politicized area. Higgins, who helped to found CORE in 2019, faced significant pushback from mentors who warned she’d have to constantly be combating accusations about bias in her work. But she and a small cadre of experts around the country have made it their priority to collect the kind of data that’s needed to inform local policy — even when policymakers don’t want to hear it.”

Read the whole article here.


Women’s Healthcast: The State of Abortion Rights in 2022, with Jenny Higgins, PhD

Sometime in the next few weeks, the United States Supreme Court will issue a decision in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Their decision in this case could have huge effects on abortion legality and abortion access across the country.

To share information about today’s landscape of abortion access in Wisconsin, what the Supreme Court decision could mean, and what the research tells us about how limitations to abortion can affect people’s health and wellbeing, Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH spoke with the Women’s Healthcast. Higgins is the director of the UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health and the UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity.

Listen to The State of Abortion Rights in 2022 now.

Did you know the Women’s Healthcast is available on all your favorite podcast platforms? Whether you like to listen on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherPodbean, or anywhere else, you can find us! (Just search Women’s Healthcast, and while you’re at it, may as well subscribe!)


Wisconsin Watch interviews UW Ob-Gyn faculty on abortion laws

Wisconsin Watch, a nonprofit news organization, recently published two articles about the complex future of abortion in Wisconsin and physician opinions on why abortion is a necessary part of health care. UW Ob-Gyn faculty shared their expertise in both articles.

Wisconsin faces a ‘tangled series’ of abortion laws dating back to 1849 as it heads into a possible post-Roe future” includes interviews with Abby Cutler, MD, associate professor in the UW Ob-Gyn Division of Academic Specialists in Ob-Gyn, and Division of Reproductive and Population Health/UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, MD, MPH. 

Cutler discussed the impact the coming U.S. Supreme Court decision that may overturn Roe v. Wade could have on abortion care in Wisconsin. Higgins shared information on current barriers to accessing abortion care, and perspective on whether laws limiting abortion access are based in medicine and science.

In “Are abortions ever medically necessary? Wisconsin doctors say yes.”, Cutler and emeritus professor Doug Laube, MD talked about the physical risks that come with carrying a pregnancy, and instances where restrictions to abortion access may put peoples’ health at risk.  


Higgins talks about physician perspectives on abortion with Here and Now

On Wisconsin Public Television’s Here and Now, UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH shared data from a study of physician opinions on abortion.

Higgins joined Here and Now on May 20 to answer questions about how supportive physicians are of abortion access, how they think women’s health would be worse if Roe v. Wade were overturned, and why physicians are wary of legislative interference in health care:

“I think what I took away from that finding was that in general, at least the physicians we surveyed, there was a sense of if — that we as physicians or I as a physician am in the best place to make decisions about healthcare or how healthcare services should occur as opposed to people who don’t have that background. But mostly I think it’s just an indication that physicians in our state want to make sure that they are the ones who are ensuring that healthcare programs occur in a certain way.”

Watch the whole interview here.


Higgins quoted in article about mobile abortion clinics

As questions arise about the future of abortion access in many states, health care providers are pursuing creative solutions to provide abortion care to more patients. In “Abortion care on wheels”, the Wisconsin Examiner profiled Just the Pill, an online, nonprofit clinic that dispenses medication abortion. Just the Pill is working on rolling out mobile clinics in many states in an effort to expand access.

The Wisconsin Examiner interviewed UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH for her perspective on where mobile clinics fit in the landscape of limited access to abortion care:

“She sees Just the Pill as part of an evolving view of reproductive health care that has moved from an era when only licensed doctors are allowed to provide abortion to a research-based understanding that nurse practitioners are just as capable of providing abortion safely. “The rise of telehealth has been a huge change in the way health care is delivered for many different services, including abortion care,” Higgins says. “I think what Just the Pill is capitalizing on is not just the shift to telehealth, but also this need at times to be able to be physically mobile versus a brick and mortar clinic.””

Read the whole article here.


Higgins discusses potential impact of US Supreme Court decision on reproductive health care in Wisconsin with WTMJ

UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH spoke with WTMJ about some possible implications for reproductive health care in Wisconsin if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the interview, Higgins fielded questions about whether miscarriage is distinguishable from medication abortion, and the possibility of bigger questions about fertility treatments in the future.

Listen to the story here.


Higgins talks about US Supreme Court case Dobbs v Jackson on NBC15

In early December, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case involving a Mississippi state law that banned abortions after 15 weeks. UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD spoke with NBC-15 about what that case could mean for abortion access in Wisconsin. A decision in the case is expected in 2022.

In the interview, Higgins explained the potential affect the Supreme Court’s ruling could have in Wisconsin: 

““It’s at the state level that these issues matter the most, and Wisconsin is already such a restrictive environment for abortion, so we’re quite concerned about potential impact of these lawsuits on our state,” Jenny Higgins, UW-Madison professor and director of the UW CORE (Collaborative for Reproductive Equity), said.”"

Higgins is one of the 100+ social scientists who co-signed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court outlining the effects abortion bans have on individuals and families nationwide. 

Watch thewhole story here.


Higgins publishes in SSM – Population Health

A publication currently available online in the journal SSM – Population Health examines physicians’ knowledge of referral for abortion care. UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, as well as former UW Ob-Gyn members Cynthie Wautlet, MD and Nicholas Schmuhl, PhD, are co-authors on the study.

Willing but unable: Physicians' referral knowledge as barriers to abortion care” looks at survey responses from more than 600 physician faculty across more than 20 medical specialties at an academic medical center who responded they were at least somewhat willing to consult in abortion care. Among those who responded they were at least somewhat willing to consult in abortion care, just over half did not know how or to whom to make referrals for abortion care:

“Even though they were willing to refer a patient for an abortion, half (53%) of the physicians did not know how and whom to make those referrals, though they care for patients who may need them. Those with the least referral knowledge had not been taught abortion care during their medical training and were in earlier stages of their career than those who had more knowledge. This research exposes another obstacle for those seeking an abortion, a barrier that would be overcome with a clear and robust referral system within and across medical specialties.”

Read the whole study here.


Higgins and Jacques publish in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

A recent article published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health by UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, Laura Jacques, MD, of the UW Ob-Gyn Division of Academic Specialists in Ob-Gyn, and co-authors, used anonymized data from an online forum to examine how cost-related barriers affect peoples’ ability to access abortion care.

Real-Time Effects of Payer Restrictions on Reproductive Healthcare: A Qualitative Analysis of Cost-Related Barriers and Their Consequences among U.S. Abortion Seekers on Reddit”, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that many users posted about financial hurdles to accessing care, hurdles sometimes exacerbated by their distance from abortion providers: 

“We documented multiple cost-related deterrents, including lack of funds for both the procedure and attendant travel costs, inability to afford desired abortion modality (i.e., medication or surgical), and for some, consideration of self-managed abortion options due to cost barriers….Findings from this study underscore the centrality of cost barriers and third-party payer restrictions to stymying reproductive health access in the United States. Results may contribute to the growing evidence base and building political momentum focused on repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

Read the whole article here!


Higgins, Senderowicz publish study in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

A new study in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health by UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH and Health Disparities Research Scholar Leigh Senderowicz, ScD examines connections between economic resources and sexual wellbeing.

Sex, poverty, and public health: Connections between sexual wellbeing and economic resources among US reproductive health clients” used data from the HER Salt Lake study, a longitudinal cohort study of family planning clients. Researchers compared measures of economic health, including housing and food security, with measures of sexual wellbeing like sexual functioning and satisfaction and current sex-life rating, finding:

“Financial scarcity appears to constrain sexual wellbeing. To support positive sexual health, the public health field must continue to focus on economic reform, poverty reduction, and dismantling of structural classism as critical aspects of helping people achieve their full health and wellbeing potential.”

Read the whole study here!


This study was conducted with funding from: Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (CORE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Grant/Award Number: P2C HD047873; Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, Grant/Award Number: 8UL1TR000105; Building Interdisciplinary Researchers in Women's Health, Grant/Award Number: K12 HD085852; The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; The Society of Family Planning Research Fund; Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Grant/Award Numbers: R01 HD095661, T32HD049302, K24 HD087436, P2C HD047873, K12 HD085852


Higgins authors article in Journal of Sex Research

A new article in the Journal of Sex Research by UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (CORE) Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH introduces the concept of “erotic equity” and examines the connections between socioeconomics and sexual wellbeing.

In “Socioeconomics and Erotic Inequity: A Theoretical Overview and Narrative Review of Associations Between Poverty, Socioeconomic Conditions, and Sexual Wellbeing”, Higgins and co-authors (including Madison Lands and Mfonobong Ufot in CORE) consider pathways through which socioeconomics can affect sexual wellbeing and review past studies that document associations between economics and sexual wellbeing. The article closes with many important considerations for sexuality researchers to incorporate into future research.

Read the whole paper here!


Higgins co-authors study in The Lancet Regional Health

A new study published in The Lancet Regional Health – Americas looks at movement across state lines to obtain abortion care in 2017. UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity and Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH co-authored the article.

Abortion travel within the United States: An observational study of cross-state movement to obtain abortion care in 2017” used CDC abortion surveillance data to calculate state-specific abortion rates, as well as percentage of patients leaving their state for abortion care:

“In 2017, an average of 8% of US patients left their state of residence for abortion care. Percent leaving varied widely by state: 74% left Wyoming, 57% left South Carolina, and 56% left Missouri, while 13 states had fewer than 4% of patients leaving. States with more restrictive laws averaged 12% of patients leaving, while states with middle ground or supportive laws averaged 10% and 3% leaving, respectively. Pairwise correlations between percent leaving, facility density, and policy score were all statistically significant, though correlations between percent leaving and facility density within policy environment were not.”

Read the whole study here.


In the News: Higgins discusses Supreme Court decision and abortion restrictions

Since the May 2 leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court memo that suggests the court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade later this summer, researchers and scholars have shared insights on the current landscape of abortion access in the country, and potential implications for the coming Supreme Court decision.

UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity and UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH has shared expertise on Wisconsin Public Radio and CBS-58 in recent weeks:

State data: About 6,400 abortions were performed in Wisconsin in 2020 – Wisconsin Public Radio

In this article, Higgins discussed some state-level restrictions that make abortion access challenging for people in Wisconsin:

“Higgins also cited the state's 24-hour waiting period and requirements for medication abortions as barriers to the procedure, and noted there are only a few abortion clinics in the state, which means many patients have to travel several hours to undergo a surgical abortion. 

"There are a variety of restrictions that work synergistically to make it difficult for people to both travel to and afford services," she said.”

Where Wisconsinites stand on abortion access – The Morning Show, Wisconsin Public Radio

Higgins joined Wisconsin Public Radio’s The Morning Show on May 11, 2022 to talk about research into public opinion on abortion access, health outcomes that could be affected by abortion restrictions, and more. You can listen to the whole interview here – her appearance begins at 5:06.

In two appearances on CBS-58 in Milwaukee, Higgins provided statistics and background about abortion trends in Wisconsin, and talked about how people in Wisconsin may find abortion care if Roe v. Wade is overturned:

A look at abortion by the numbers in Wisconsin, US – CBS-58

Some worry women will seek unsafe abortion options if current access becomes limited – CBS-58


Study published in AJOG by UW CORE team examines contraceptive satisfaction and sexual side effects

A new study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology uses data from a longitudinal cohort study to examine whether sexual acceptability of a contraceptive method predicts contraceptive satisfaction at three months.

A prospective analysis of the relationship between sexual acceptability and contraceptive satisfaction over time”, by Renee Kramer, PhD, MPH, UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity and Division of Reproductive and Population Health Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, and co-authors, surveyed people who began using a new contraceptive method after three months to gauge their perceptions of sexual satisfaction and side effects:

“Among new-start contraceptive users, the patients’ sexual experiences with their birth control method were highly associated with contraceptive satisfaction at 3 months, more so than changes in vaginal bleeding, mood-related side effects, or physical side effects.”

Read the whole study here


CORE study published in SSM – Population Health

A study in the latest issue of SSM – Population Health examines physicians’ knowledge of referral for abortion care. UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, as well as former UW Ob-Gyn members Cynthie Wautlet, MD and Nicholas Schmuhl, PhD, are co-authors on the study. 

Willing but unable: Physicians' referral knowledge as barriers to abortion care” looks at survey responses from more than 600 physician faculty across more than 20 medical specialties at an academic medical center who responded they were at least somewhat willing to consult in abortion care. Among those who responded they were at least somewhat willing to consult in abortion care, just over half did not know how or to whom to make referrals for abortion care:

“Even though they were willing to refer a patient for an abortion, half (53%) of the physicians did not know how and whom to make those referrals, though they care for patients who may need them. Those with the least referral knowledge had not been taught abortion care during their medical training and were in earlier stages of their career than those who had more knowledge. This research exposes another obstacle for those seeking an abortion, a barrier that would be overcome with a clear and robust referral system within and across medical specialties.”

Read the whole study here.


Save the Dates: UW Ob-Gyn 2022 Research Events

Save the dates for three UW Department of Ob-Gyn research events in 2022:

February 24, 2022 - Resident Research Day

Featuring a keynote presentation by Lisa Hollier, MD, MPH, professor of ob-gyn at Baylor College of Medicine and former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Resident research presentations by PGY-4 residents John Poehlmann, MD, and Matthew Wagar, MD.

March 3, 2022 - Resident Research Day 

Featuring a keynote by Catherine Bradley, MD, MSCE, professor of ob-gyn at the University of Iowa. Resident research presentations by PGY-4 residents Ushma Patel, MD, Jordan Ward, MD and Daniel Pellicer, MD.

May 26, 2022 - Department Research Day

Featuring a keynote presentation by Jeffrey Peipert, MD, PhD, professor of ob-gyn at the Indiana University School of Medicine. UW Ob-Gyn faculty Jenny Higgins, PhD and Laura Jacques, MD will give research presentations. Graduating fellows Shannon Rush, MD (gynecologic oncology) and Jennifer Jacobson, MD (maternal-fetal medicine) will present their fellowship research projects.


Higgins to lead Division of Reproductive and Population Health

The UW Department of Ob-Gyn is pleased to announce that Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH will assume the role of Director of the UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health, effective September 1, 2021.  

Dr. Higgins joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Gender and Women’s Studies in 2012. In 2017, she joined our Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s Division of Reproductive and Population Health through a joint faculty appointment. Dr. Higgins is the Director of the UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity, a research initiative focused on reproductive healthcare access and delivery, policy evaluation, and communication to address critical needs in reproductive health and healthcare in Wisconsin.  

During her time at the UW, Dr. Higgins has earned prestigious awards such as the Romnes Faculty Fellowship and the Vilas Early Career Award. She served two terms on the Guttmacher Institute’s Board of Directors and spent more than a decade on the editorial boards of the Journal of Sex Research andPerspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health.  

Dr. Higgins earned her PhD in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Emory University, as well as a master’s in public health focused on global health.  

Dr. Higgins is a talented, insightful mixed-methods researcher with a deep interest in sexual and reproductive health. She will do an incredible job of strengthening the Division of Reproductive and Population Health’s mission to improve quality of life by advancing reproductive and population health research and promoting community-engaged strategies.


Grand Rounds: Heisler and Higgins present Equity Badger Bytes

On July 15, 2021, researchers in the UW Department of Ob-Gyn presented a Badger Bytes research Grand Rounds.

Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, of the Division of Reproductive and Population Health, presented “Economics and Erotic Inequity: Poverty and Sexual Wellbeing.” During her presentation, Higgins defined erotic equity and shared main findings from the literature and a new empirical data analysis related to consistent, positive relationships between economics and sexual wellbeing.

Christine Heisler, MD, MS, of the UW Ob-Gyn Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, presented “Gender Equity in Ob-Gyn: What the Data Tell Us.” In her presentation, Heisler described three gender equity issues in ob-gyn, as well as three objective, measurable outcomes to improve gender equity.

Watch the lectures here!


Study by UW CORE researchers published in Contraception

A new study in Contraception uses data from a survey of UW School of Medicine and Public Health physicians to assess physician support for abortion access and abortion providers. The study also examines physicians’ perceptions of their peers’ attitudes towards abortion and abortion providers.

Physician attitudes about abortion and their willingness to consult in abortion care at a Midwestern academic medical center, by Nicholas Schmuhl, PhD, Laurel Rice, MD, Cynthia Wautlet, MD, and Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, found faculty who were surveyed have strong support for abortion. In addition, 84% of respondents reported at least “a little” support for the efforts of faculty who provide abortion services.

While respondents reported a high level of support themselves for abortion services and abortion providers, they estimated a lower level of support among their peers. For example, 62% of physicians reported “a lot” of support for abortion access, but only 21% estimated the same level of support from their peers.

“Our findings have implications for abortion care access and quality in Wisconsin, as well as professional quality of life for physicians who directly and indirectly participate in abortion care. While these results should encourage supporters of comprehensive abortion rights, the climate surrounding abortion at our institution could improve. Self-reports portrayed a highly supportive environment surrounding abortion, while physicians perceived a more muted climate of support among their fellow faculty. Our findings demonstrate that these misperceptions have tangible consequences for access and quality of abortion care, as physicians who estimated relatively lower support among peers were less willing to consult in abortion-related cases. This discrepancy was greatest among specialties commonly associated with abortion care.”

Read the whole study here.


Higgins published in JAMA Internal Medicine

A new study co-authored by UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD and published in JAMA Internal Medicine examines the association of sexual satisfaction and self-reported sexual acceptability with continued contraceptive use over time.

Association Between Patients’ Perceptions of the Sexual Acceptability of Contraceptive Methods and Continued Use Over Time” uses data from the HER Salt Lake Contraceptive Initiative, which surveyed a cohort of new contraceptive users at one, three and six month intervals to gauge whether (and how) their contraceptive methods of choice affected their sex lives.

The study found that those who reported a negative impact on their sex life were upwards of three times as likely to discontinue or switch their method compared to people who reported a positive sexual impact. And this effect on contraceptive use over time was stronger than factors more commonly considered, including changes in vaginal bleeding, physical side effects such as headaches or bloating, and psychological side effects such as changes in mood.

Read the whole study here!


Rice, Higgins make case for health care provider proficiency with contraceptives in Health Affairs blog

UW Ob-Gyn Department Chair Laurel Rice, MD, and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, co-authored an article for Health Affairs outlining the reasons it’s critical that health care providers seek out accurate information on contraceptive care.

Inaccuracies or misunderstandings about how birth control works shape public perception and affect health care policy, and even health care providers are not immune from misinformation. In “The Need For Accurate Contraceptive Awareness And Advocacy Among Health Care Providers”, Rice and Higgins correct some common misconceptions about how contraceptive methods work, and argue that health care providers – as long as they’re armed with accurate knowledge – can be great advocates for comprehensive contraceptive policies:

Health care providers can hardly be expected to hold exhaustive knowledge about the universe of medications and medical products. However, we argue that proficiency about contraception’s actual mechanisms is critically important…

 Medical professionals armed with accurate information have an opportunity to push back against, not perpetuate, larger cultural misperceptions and deliberate political myths about birth control. These myths do not merely represent a benign lack of knowledge but affect policies and programs, limiting people’s ability to access this essential public health and medical good.

Read the whole article here.


Higgins publishes on contraceptive satisfaction in Journal of Sex Research

Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, director of the UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity and member of the UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive and Population Health, published a new study in the Journal of Sex Research.

Sexual Functioning, Satisfaction, and Well-Being Among Contraceptive Users: A Three-Month Assessment From the HER Salt Lake Contraceptive Initiative” followed new contraceptive users over three months to learn about how sexual side effects of their contraceptive method affected satisfaction and continuance. The survey used assessed for bleeding changes, contraceptive-related side effects, sexual functioning and satisfaction, and perceptions of methods’ impact on sexual well-being. 

This study indicates that about half of new-start contraceptive users perceive positive sexual impacts due to their method, and about one in seven report negative sexual impacts. Findings suggest a heretofore untapped benefit of contraception with which both clinicians and public health practitioners would be wise to familiarize themselves and potentially promote… To promote both contraceptive satisfaction and overall sexual well-being, we should work to understand and promote sex-enhancing aspects of contraceptive methods, as well as how to best match individuals with methods they will find sexually acceptable.

Read the whole study here!


Higgins, Schmuhl, Wautlet, Rice publish in American Journal of Public Health

Findings from a UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity study on how doctors view access to abortion has been published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

In the research-based editorial “The Importance of Physician Concern and Expertise in Increasing Abortion Health Care Access in Local Contexts, Jenny Higgins, PhD, Nicholas Schmuhl, PhD, Cynthie Wautlet, MD, and Laurel Rice, MD—all UW CORE investigators—chronicle the impacts of increasingly restrictive policies on abortion access, underscoring the key importance of local and state-level attitudes. Even with the current legal protections of Roe v. Wade, many state regulations already curtail abortion access. If the Supreme Court overturns the landmark case, which seems likely given the new makeup of the court, existing passed and signed state laws would immediately become enforceable, criminalizing abortion in Wisconsin and the majority of other US states.

Using Wisconsin as a case study, UW CORE researchers examined physician attitudes on the impacts of abortion policy on patients, the practice of medicine, and public health. With doctors ranking above teachers, police officers, and clergy in terms of their perceived ethics and trustworthiness, they comprise an important, but often understudied, group of influencers of public opinion and, ultimately, policy.

Wisconsin, a political battleground state now considered hostile to abortion access, witnessed a number of restrictive abortion policies implemented after the 2010 election. To better understand physicians’ attitudes toward abortion access and its impacts, UW CORE researchers surveyed doctors at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health—the state’s largest and only publicly-funded medical school. The team sent 1,357 surveys to doctors in all specialties and received 913 responses (a surprisingly high 67 percent response rate) between February and May 2019.

The investigators found that physicians across specialties majorly opposed restrictions on abortion health care services. In terms of patient care, 91 percent believed women’s health care would get worse if Roe v. Wade were overturned. An overwhelming majority of respondents, 99 percent, were concerned about legislation interfering with the doctor-patient relationship.

Ninety-one percent of doctors also opposed policies that prohibit their involvement in abortion care—namely, restrictive employment covenants that prevent them from providing abortion health services on personal time. Finally, physicians worried that abortion restrictions could negatively affect the UW–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health by curtailing faculty and trainee recruitment.

“We had expected physicians in our study to be concerned about abortion restrictions on patients,” said lead author Jenny Higgins. “But we were struck by the overwhelming degree to which they were also concerned about policy interference in how physicians can practice medicine, both in general and in regard to abortion. Another surprising finding is that physicians worried not only about effects on patient care and physician autonomy, but also on their institution’s reputation and ability to recruit quality faculty and trainees. It’s also notable that these attitudes were shared by providers across virtually all medical specialties, and not just Obstetrics and Gynecology.”

The authors argued that physicians have the potential to influence policy and change public perception. By more widely sharing their feelings about the negative impact of abortion restrictions, doctors could potentially help ease restrictions and shape both public attitudes and public policy. Doing so could protect women’s health as well as physician autonomy.

Read the whole article here.


Higgins discusses CORE research on Wide Awake in Wisconsin podcast

On the final episode of Wide Awake in Wisconsin, a podcast from the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH appeared to discuss UW CORE research on policy impacts!

In the interview, Higgins talks about ongoing CORE research, and how CORE projects help inform policy decisions and development in Wisconsin.

Listen to the whole interview here!


Higgins published in Contraception

UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity Director Jenny Higgins, PhD published the article Beyond Safety and Efficacy: Sexuality-Related Priorities and Their Associations with Contraceptive Method Selection in Contraception!

In the study, Higgins and colleagues assessed contraceptive preferences in people selecting new methods, and gauged whether (and to what degree) sexuality-related preferences affected their choices. The sexuality-related preferences evaluated were methods’ lack of impact on libido, and methods’ lack of sexual interruption.

The study found that many patients ranked sexual priorities as very important, along with safety and efficacy:

“Since patients endorse the importance of sexual-related contraceptive factors (impact on libido, impact on sexual interruption) alongside safety and efficacy, contraceptive research, counseling and care should attend to people's sexuality.”

Read the whole study here.