OHSU continues its support for reproductive rights and is launching a new Center for Reproductive Health Equity

Maria Rodriguez, MD, MPH, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at OHSU School of Medicine performs an ultrasound on a patient. Rodriguez is now director of the new OHSU Center for Reproductive Health Equity. (OHSU/Christine Torres Hicks)

While Americans face a sharp curtailment of reproductive rights since the overthrow of Roe against Wade last year, Oregon Health & Science University continues to lead the way in creating access for essential healthcare with a new Center for Reproductive Health Equity to advance reproductive health services, education and policy research.

Last year’s devastating rollback Roe against Wade protections have caused abortion services – what should be basic health care – to become unsafe and inaccessible to individuals in more than a dozen states, disproportionately affecting low-income people and already marginalized communities.

In the face of growing health disparities, OHSU has been a leader in reproductive health care and education, including: working to provide access to abortion services for out-of-state patients; advise on international efforts to improve reproductive health; and, most recently, providing abortion training for medical assistants who live in states where abortion is prohibited or restricted, and therefore do not have access to clinical experience in abortion care as part of their family planning training. The new center continues OHSU’s steadfast commitment to expanded access to reproductive health services for all.

Maria Rodriguez, MD, MPH (OHSU)
Maria Rodriguez, MD, MPH (OHSU)

“Reproductive health is a fundamental right, yet so many Americans — especially people of color, immigrants, low-income, and LGBTQ+ people — lack equal access to care,” he said. Maria Rodriguez, MD, MPH, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the OHSU School of Medicine and director of the new center. “The establishment of this center is an important and necessary step to ensure that an individual’s right to make decisions about their health is not limited in any way by factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity or socioeconomic status. ”

Information drives improvement

The United States has one of the highest rates of death and morbidity related to pregnancy and childbirth among developed countries, and these disparities are greatest among people of color and those living in poverty. A major driver of this public health crisis is limited access to evidence-based reproductive health services, especially contraception and abortion. The new OHSU Center will work to identify and resolve the health system factors underlying these disparities, ultimately enabling clinicians and researchers to more effectively design and deliver care, educate students and interns, and advocate for evidence-based reproductive health policy.

Housed within OHSU’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the center will focus on three main areas: research, education and clinical care.

Research priorities include determining the role that factors in the health system play in reducing or maintaining reproductive health inequalities, and evaluating various clinical interventions that promote reproductive health equity. The center’s educational efforts will engage students, residents, and educators with the role of policy in shaping factors and conditions related to reproductive health equity. Most importantly, the center will enlist clinicians to improve access to reproductive health care for marginalized populations, both in Oregon and across the country.

In the past year alone, more than 500 policies have been enacted restricting access to reproductive health care. This policy affects all areas of care, including maternity and newborn care, access to contraception, abortion services and fertility treatments.

“Recently, we’ve taken such extreme measures to limit access to reproductive health care, and these actions have very real consequences for women’s health in this country,” Rodriguez said. “While our team at OHSU is excited to continue this work, we also understand there is no time to lose.”

The establishment of the Center for Reproductive Healthy Equity represents another major effort in OHSU’s commitment to providing the full continuum of sexual and reproductive health care to all who seek it, and to educating the next generation of clinicians and pioneering research to improve. The center builds on the continued support of generous donors and committed healthcare and community partners who recognize the importance of promoting reproductive health.

OHSU continues its support for reproductive rights and is launching a new Center for Reproductive Health Equity

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