TRAPped Final Post

As school kicks off, it dawns on me that I actually have to stop doing this research. Seven weeks turned out to be more like ten, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It has been a unique and educational experience, and I am very thankful to the James Reilly Scholarship fund and to W&M for making it possible.

I have broken my project down into three segments: legislation, sociological challenges, and epidemiology. These three areas allow for a more well-rounded analysis of the current barriers to abortion access, the status of provider availability, and what trends exist in abortion rates and ratios in the state of Virginia. There are so many other perspectives I was exposed to in the research process, and many more that I have yet to hear, but I hope to paint a complete picture of the abortion “issue” under these three umbrella terms.

There is also a historical element to this project: I am looking at legislation and barriers not just now, but since the Roe decision of 1973. By doing this, I hope to shed some light on how Virginia’s legislation became as restrictive as it currently is. Though Roe is cited as a revolutionary landmark case in the history of women’s reproductive rights, most legislation since then has been passed in an effort to roll back that very decision, and ultimately make a legal service all but inaccessible for most who need it. Virginia’s legislative history surrounding provision of abortion services is a tumultuous one, but one very critical in understanding women’s healthcare nationwide.

The epidemiological side of this research has been the most challenging. I needed to develop statistical skills to understand the charts and graphs I was finding from the CDC, the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood, etc. Though bar graphs are easy enough to interpret, linear regressions and surveillance charts tracking decades of data are a different story. This is an area I look forward to building on as I continue with this research in the future.

Throughout my research, I also came to find quotations from Supreme Court justices and the individuals I interviewed to be both enlightening and very helpful in understanding the issue. Oftentimes we cannot understand the heart and soul of a matter when all we get is propaganda and bias in the media — one must turn to the narratives of the matter to understand it on a more human level. I hope to include these in my work as a way to bring more people (from all backgrounds) into my research.

This experience has been a trying one, and as I reflect back on this summer, I don’t think so much about how much I’ve learned as I do about the great amount I have left to learn. As my advisor warned me when I set out on this project, I could research this topic for the rest of my life and still never be satisfied. Such is the nature of all research, it seems. I look forward to presenting my findings at the upcoming research showcase, and can’t wait to hear about others’ research experiences too!