This summer, Tracy Weitz was appointed to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) Standing Committee on Reproductive Health, Equity, and Society. Weitz is an American University professor of sociology and the director of AU’s Center on Health, Risk, and Society (CHRS).
The appointment is groundbreaking. Weitz joins NASEM’s very first cohort with expertise on abortion. “When the committee wanted to understand the impact of the Dobbs Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, they realized they needed to add scholars focused on abortion-related research,” Weitz says. “There were already many distinguished experts on general reproductive health on the committee, but specific social science expertise on abortion in the United States was needed.”
“Providing equitable access to high-quality reproductive health care services is essential for the health and well-being of people, families, and communities," announced the NASEM. The committee will “assess the health, economic, social, and policy implications of access to reproductive health services, identify ways to improve well-being through reproductive health care access, and serve as a focal point for national policy discussions by leaders in the reproductive health field.”
Already the committee has hosted a series of webinars on how the Dobbs decision has impacted clinical care. In October, the committee will host a meeting on the data challenges of studying abortion access post-Dobbs. Weitz is a member of the subcommittee planning this event. In June, she published a commentary explaining the limitations of the existing data systems and calling for investment in the research infrastructure needed to conduct abortion-related research.
Pioneering Expert on Abortion
Weitz, who joined AU in 2022, is one of the nation’s top abortion social science experts. She is a frequent writer and commentator on abortion and health; most recently she talked to the 19th about the politics of abortions later in pregnancy. Weitz is also a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and served as the former US Programs Director at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. Weitz co-founded and directed the University of California, San Francisco (USSF) Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health research program. In 2013, Weitz’s work influenced the California legislature to pass AB154, which permits nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform aspiration abortions. Eight additional states have since implemented the same policy change. While at UCSF, Weitz also served as the founding executive director for the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health.
At American University
This fall, Weitz will launch the Abortion Information Hub at AU to provide a digital portal to abortion-related information and research. (For more information, email AIH@american.edu.)
At American University, Weitz also serves as director of the Center on Health, Risk, and Society, which was established in 2010 to bring together scholars from across AU schools and disciplines to conduct research on the social and structural contexts that produce health and health-related inequities. CHRS stresses that addressing these inequities requires understanding health as constituted by social, cultural, economic, political, and historical processes. The Center organizes its work around five research foci: Sex, Sexuality, and Reproduction; Migration, Displacement, and Disruption; Violence and the Carceral State; Wellbeing and Social Belonging; and Environment, Climate, and Place.
On Wednesday, September 13, the Center will launch its 2023-2024 weekly speaker series. Sanyu A. Mojola will discuss “Race, Health, and Inequality: The Roots of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Washington, DC. At Princeton University, Mojola is a professor of sociology and public affairs, the Maurice P During Professor of Demographic Studies, and director of the Office of Population Research. For more information about the event and the speaker series, visit the CHRS website.