Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 22, Issue 11, pp 1556–1562 | Cite as

Is Abortion Included in Maternal and Child Health Curricula in the United States?

  • Meredith BurnsEmail author
  • Roger Rochat
  • Amy G. Bryant
  • Kathryn Andersen
Graduate Education


Purpose The purpose of this study is to assess whether Maternal and Child Health (MCH) graduate programs address abortion content in their programs’ foundational courses, elective courses, and general curricula. Description Between January and March 2017, we conducted a descriptive study with faculty from the 13 Centers of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Education, Science and Practice (COEs). We reviewed syllabi and discussed foundational and elective course content via email and key informant interviews with COE faculty. We categorized abortion coverage in foundational courses as “transparent” or “tangential” depending on inclusion of the word “abortion” in course syllabi. We identified electives addressing abortion as “electives including abortion” and courses that focus on abortion as “abortion-specific electives.” Assessment Evidence demonstrated that most programs do not transparently address abortion in required course curricula. Only one of 13 COEs transparently addresses abortion in the foundational course(s); seven COEs tangentially include abortion in foundational courses; and all programs address abortion in some capacity though no standard exists to ensure its inclusion. Despite barriers, including avoidance of controversy and fear of losing funding, COEs could address abortion by establishing shared curricular standards, facilitating values clarification and attitude transformation activities, utilizing information-sharing networks, strengthening relationships between MCH programs and abortion-related organizations, and using professional societies. The scope of our study does not allow us to conclude why abortion content is lacking nor the quality of current content. Conclusion MCH programs should transparently incorporate abortion content in foundational and electives courses to educate students on how to engage with complex and sometimes stigmatized public health issues.


Abortion Maternal and child health Public health education Curriculum 



This paper was originally conceived of as a master’s project but was subsequently edited for publication. Many thanks to Dr. Lewis Margolis and Dr. Claudia Fernandez for serving as readers in its first iteration.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study is not clinical or based on patient data. The UNC Office of Human Research Ethics determined this study exempt from IRB approval.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.IpasChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Rollins School of Public HealthAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Division of Family Planning, Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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