Abigail Aiken


Faculty Research AssociateMD, MPH, PhD, Cambridge University, Harvard University, The University of Texas at Austin

Assistant Professor, Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs
Abigail Aiken

Contact

Interests


Unintended pregnancy and its life impacts, Abortion access, Contraceptive desires and use; High-risk obstetrics

Biography


I am currently an Assistant Professor of Public Affairs in the LBJ School and a PRC Faculty Research Associate.

My research focuses on reproductive health and spans several disciplines, combining backgrounds in biomedical science, demography, public health, and public policy. My work has recently been published in the American Journal of Public Health, Social Science and Medicine, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Contraception, and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others. My research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Society of Family Planning.

 

Courses


S S 302C • Hon Soc Sci:methods/Theory

41595 • Spring 2020
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GDC 5.302
SB

SS302C Reproductive Health: From Human Biology to Public Policy

COURSE OVERVIEW

This course is designed to help you develop a broad knowledge of reproduction both as a biological phenomenon and as an issue of public policy. During our time together, you will acquire the skills necessary to think critically about how and why reproduction is regulated in the United States today.

In the first part of the course, we will focus on the physiological processes governing the ability to reproduce, and on how these processes may be harnessed to allow individuals to choose if and when reproduction occurs. As we consider each key biological process, we will place it in contemporary social and cultural context.

In the second part of the course, we will focus on the legal principles and policy frameworks governing reproductive rights. We will use specific examples of current reproductive health policy, mainly in the U.S., but also in some comparative international contexts, to consider the various lenses through which policy problems are defined and public policies may be evaluated.

By the end of the semester you will have had the opportunity to:

1) Learn about the biological processes underpinning human capacity for reproduction and for fertility control.

2) Understand what makes an issue a matter of public policy.

3) Explore where reproductive rights come from, in which documents they can be found, and how they continue to evolve through judicial decisions.

4) Synthesize and critique the evidence and principles on which reproductive health policies are based and apply your knowledge to make policy recommendations.

5) Practice writing effectively on an issue of reproductive health policy.

 

COURSE STRUCTURE

We will meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each class will last 75 minutes. We will address a new topic each week and we will divide our weekly meetings into two types of activity: 1) lectures, and 2) group discussions. On Tuesdays, we will review the assigned topic material for the week through a lecture and Q&A session. The purpose of this session is to ensure everyone has a sound grasp of the assigned material and has a chance to ask clarifying questions. On Thursdays, we will break out into small groups to a discuss key questions on the weekly topic. Two questions are assigned per week in the syllabus, and you must prepare both in advance of class to discuss with your group. At the start of Thursday class, each group will be assigned one of the two questions and will have 20 minutes to discuss their answers. Each group will then informally present their perspectives to the rest of the class. Groups will be assigned at the start of the semester, and each week, a new person from each set group will be elected to present, so that everyone takes a turn. The purpose of this session is to give you the chance to think deeply about the issues at hand, practice developing and communicating an informed opinion, and consider a range of perspectives offered by your classmates.

COURSE MATERIALS

There is no assigned textbook for the course. Weekly readings will be posted as PDFs to the course web page, which is available through the UT Canvas site (canvas.utexas.edu) or as website links embedded in the syllabus. Please check for these on a week-by-week basis when preparing your assigned reading.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

We will have a mid-term in-class exam. The exam will be closed book and will be worth 40% of your grade. It will give you the opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned in the first half of the semester about the biology of reproduction.

Your final assignment will be a choice between either writing a critique of a current piece of reproductive health legislation that interests you and proposing an alternative policy, or writing an op-ed on a reproductive health issue of your choice. The final assignment must not exceed 6 double-spaced pages in length. The op-ed must not exceed 1,000 words.

Your final grade for the course will be determined as follows: 40% mid-term exam; 20% participation in class discussions; and 40% final paper.  The class participation portion of your grade will be determined by attendance and your contributions to the weekly discussion. Written assignments will be graded holistically, but I will distribute a guide to the key elements on which you will be assessed in advance.

 

About the Professor:

Education

Ph.D., Public Policy, University of Texas at Austin

MPH, Harvard University

M.D., University of Cambridge

B.A., University of Cambridge

 

Research Areas

Reproductive Health

Health Policy

Teaching Areas

Social Policy

Abigail R.A. Aiken held postdoctoral and lecturer positions at the Office of Population Research and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University before joining The University of Texas in 2016. She is currently an assistant professor of public affairs at the LBJ School and a faculty associate at the Population Research Center. Her research focuses on reproductive health and spans several disciplines, combining backgrounds in biomedical sciences, public policy, demography and public health. Her current projects include: examining women's experiences obtaining self-sourced abortion in contexts where legislative barriers prevent access to safe, legal abortion through the health care system; evaluating programs and policies designed to increase access to contraception in the postpartum and post abortion setting; and investigating the determinants and impacts of unintended pregnancies through a health equity and reproductive justice framework. Her work has recently been published in the BMJ, The New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, Social Science & Medicine, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Contraception, and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others. Dr. Aiken frequently testifies on reproductive health issues at the Texas State Legislature, and provided expert testimony to the Irish Parliament on the 2018 abortion referendum. She has consulted for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and for the United Nations on issues of contraception and abortion access. 

 

S S 302C • Hon Soc Sci:methods/Theory

42160 • Spring 2019
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GDC 5.302
SB

SS302C Reproductive Health: From Human Biology to Public Policy

COURSE OVERVIEW

This course is designed to help you develop a broad knowledge of reproduction both as a biological phenomenon and as an issue of public policy. During our time together, you will acquire the skills necessary to think critically about how and why reproduction is regulated in the United States today.

 

In the first part of the course, we will focus on the physiological processes governing the ability to reproduce, and on how these processes may be harnessed to allow individuals to choose if and when reproduction occurs. As we consider each key biological process, we will place it in contemporary social and cultural context.

 

In the second part of the course, we will focus on the legal principles and policy frameworks governing reproductive rights. We will use specific examples of current reproductive health policy, mainly in the U.S., but also in some comparative international contexts, to consider the various lenses through which policy problems are defined and public policies may be evaluated.

 

By the end of the semester you will have had the opportunity to:

 

1) Learn about the biological processes underpinning human capacity for reproduction and for fertility control.

 

2) Understand what makes an issue a matter of public policy.

 

3) Explore where reproductive rights come from, in which documents they can be found, and how they continue to evolve through judicial decisions.

 

4) Synthesize and critique the evidence and principles on which reproductive health policies are based and apply your knowledge to make policy recommendations.

 

5) Practice writing effectively on an issue of reproductive health policy.

 

 

 

COURSE STRUCTURE

 

We will meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each class will last 75 minutes. We will address a new topic each week and we will divide our weekly meetings into two types of activity: 1) lectures, and 2) group discussions. On Tuesdays, we will review the assigned topic material for the week through a lecture and Q&A session. The purpose of this session is to ensure everyone has a sound grasp of the assigned material and has a chance to ask clarifying questions. On Thursdays, we will break out into small groups to a discuss key questions on the weekly topic. Two questions are assigned per week in the syllabus, and you must prepare both in advance of class to discuss with your group. At the start of Thursday class, each group will be assigned one of the two questions and will have 20 minutes to discuss their answers. Each group will then informally present their perspectives to the rest of the class. Groups will be assigned at the start of the semester, and each week, a new person from each set group will be elected to present, so that everyone takes a turn. The purpose of this session is to give you the chance to think deeply about the issues at hand, practice developing and communicating an informed opinion, and consider a range of perspectives offered by your classmates.

 

 

COURSE MATERIALS

 

There is no assigned textbook for the course. Weekly readings will be posted as PDFs to the course web page, which is available through the UT Canvas site (canvas.utexas.edu) or as website links embedded in the syllabus. Please check for these on a week-by-week basis when preparing your assigned reading.

 

 

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

 

We will have a mid-term in-class exam. The exam will be closed book and will be worth 40% of your grade. It will give you the opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned in the first half of the semester about the biology of reproduction.

 

Your final assignment will be a choice between either writing a critique of a current piece of reproductive health legislation that interests you and proposing an alternative policy, or writing an op-ed on a reproductive health issue of your choice. The final assignment must not exceed 6 double-spaced pages in length. The op-ed must not exceed 1,000 words.

 

Your final grade for the course will be determined as follows: 40% mid-term exam; 20% participation in class discussions; and 40% final paper.  The class participation portion of your grade will be determined by attendance and your contributions to the weekly discussion. Written assignments will be graded holistically, but I will distribute a guide to the key elements on which you will be assessed in advance.

 

About the Professor:

 

Education

Ph.D., Public Policy, University of Texas at Austin

MPH, Harvard University

M.D., University of Cambridge

B.A., University of Cambridge

 

Research Areas

Reproductive Health

Health Policy

Teaching Areas

Social Policy

 

Abigail R.A. Aiken held postdoctoral and lecturer positions at the Office of Population Research and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University before joining The University of Texas in 2016. She is currently an assistant professor of public affairs at the LBJ School and a faculty associate at the Population Research Center. Her research focuses on reproductive health and spans several disciplines, combining backgrounds in biomedical sciences, public policy, demography and public health. Her current projects include: examining women's experiences obtaining self-sourced abortion in contexts where legislative barriers prevent access to safe, legal abortion through the health care system; evaluating programs and policies designed to increase access to contraception in the postpartum and postabortion setting; and investigating the determinants and impacts of unintended pregnancies through a health equity and reproductive justice framework. Her work has recently been published in the BMJ, The New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, Social Science & Medicine, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Contraception, and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others. Dr. Aiken frequently testifies on reproductive health issues at the Texas State Legislature, and provided expert testimony to the Irish Parliament on the 2018 abortion referendum. She has consulted for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and for the United Nations on issues of contraception and abortion access. 

S S 301 • Honors Social Science

42365 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM GAR 2.112
SB

HONORS SOCIAL SCIENCE: REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

COURSE OVERVIEW
This course will provide you with an overview of the field of reproductive health and rights and help you to develop the skills required to analyze, evaluate, and advocate for evidence-based reproductive health policy. We will focus primarily on the aspects of reproductive health that relate to fertility control: unintended pregnancy, contraception,
and abortion. The struggle to gain control over fertility has a controversial history, both in the United States and around the world, and is no less divisive in today’s political and social climate.
 
Like many other policy areas you will encounter, the policies pertaining to reproductive health and rights we see today have been shaped by multiple disciplinary perspectives and a wide variety of players and stakeholders. To become adept at evaluating, designing, and arguing for responsible and just reproductive health policy, you must build a strong foundation of knowledge and develop the skills necessary to apply and communicate that
knowledge. This class is designed to help you to do both those things.

By the end of the semester you will have had the opportunity to:

1) Understand the evolution of family planning programs and develop an appreciation of the inequities ingrained in historical trajectory of reproductive health policies.
2) Get comfortable with the biological processes underpinning human capacity for reproduction and fertility control.
3) Become familiar with the most important research in key reproductive health and rights topic areas and develop in
-depth knowledge of your particular area of interest.
4) Critique and synthesize evidence to evaluate reproductive health policies and apply your knowledge to make policy recommendations.
5) Practice writing effectively on a reproductive health issue, both for a policy audience and for the general public.
6) Master the art of testimony––i.e. presenting oral arguments in favor of or against a policy under legislative or judicial consideration––to design and deliver a concise, compelling, and scientifically supported case for your point of view.

COURSE STRUCTURE
The course is divided into three parts –– two shorter sections and one longer section.

In the first part of the course (the first of the short sections), we will conduct a broad overview of the disciplinary origins of contemporary reproductive health policy; from the population control programs of demographers, to the health- promotion goals of public health practitioners, to the reproductive rights concerns of feminists and reproductive justice advocates.

In the second shorter section, we will learn the key biological principles that govern how the menstrual cycle creates windows of opportunity for pregnancy, how contraceptive methods operate to prevent pregnancy, and how abortion takes place to disrupt pregnancy.

In the third longer section, we will explore key areas of reproductive health policy in detail, focusing on a different topic each week. We will review the important evidence on each topic ––some classic and some brand new–– and synthesize this evidence to evaluate current policies both in United States and internationally.

COURSE MATERIALS
Weekly readings will be posted to the course web page, which is available through the UT Canvassite (canvas.utexas.edu). Occasionally we will use videos and website links, which are embedded in
the syllabus
 
We will use one textbook during the course: Contraceptive Technology(20th edition) by Hatcher RA, Trussell J, Nelson A, Cates W, Stewart F, Kowal D, Policar M. New York NY: Ardent Media, 2011.
Copies will be available frommy office and assigned chapters will be posted to Canvas.

To keep up to date with recent policy developments in reproductive health, you can also sign up for
policy updates from the National Partnership for Women and Families:
http://go.nationalpartnership.org/site/PageNavigator/RHW_home.html
COURSE REQUIREMENTS

Attendance: Attendance is expected at every class. If you anticipate needing to be absent, please contact me at
least a week in advance to discuss making up that week’s classwork.
 
Weekly Readings: The most important contribution you make to this class (and the best favor you can do yourself) is to prepare for each class by reading the assigned reading and spending some time giving it some careful thought. A large fraction of what you will learn in this class will be learned outside the classroom on your own. You learn by thinking, interacting, and thinking some more, not by being told the answer.

All of the reading assigned each week is required. At the same time, I recognize that you also have required reading for other classes, and that you have lives outside of school. For that reason, the reading requirements for this course are not arduous and should be manageable for honors undergraduates. I have  the expectation that you will engage fully with the readings for each week and come prepared to discuss them in class. If you would like further readings on a topic of particular interest, please ask and I will be happy to provide them.

Readings may include research articles, journalistic pieces, and book chapters. My advice is to read each article through once and summarize its main points. Then read it through again, considering its strengths, weaknesses, and contributions. Finally, think about the ways it may support or refute current policy on the topic and what further research it might stimulate.

Class Discussion: I expect everyone to actively participate in the class discussion and activities. Rather than having
discussion leaders for each week, everyone will read the assigned reading and come prepared to ask and answer questions on what they have read. Please come prepared to contribute at least one question or observation on each reading and one over-arching question or observation taking all of the readings into consideration.

Mid-term and Term Papers
You will write a policy memo (1000-word's maximum) on an assigned topic and an op-ed (800 words maximum) on any reproductive health policy topic of your choice.  Your memo and op-ed must be word processed and submitted by email. Late papers will result in a one-letter grade penalty for each day beyond the due date. You must prepare your
own memo and op-ed and all work must be your own. The purpose of writing both a policy memo and an op-ed
is to allow you the opportunity to practice two very different skills that you will need in the research, policy and communication arenas. The first is to communicate facts clearly, accurately, and concisely to policy-makers and to make recommendations based upon the best available evidence. The second is to write persuasively about your informed opinion for the general public.
 
We will also discuss the expected elements of each assignment during class well in advance of the due dates.

Testimony
On the last class day, you will deliver a pre-prepared short oral testimony on a reproductive health policy topic of your choice. This topic can be the same as the one you are planning for your op-ed or a different topic.
You will have a maximum of 5 minutes to deliver your testimony to the class, with an additional 2 minutes during which class members can ask you questions. We will talk more about testimony during the semester. Some useful tips can also be found here:http://tcdd.texas.gov/public-policy/public-testimony-tips/

Grades
Your final grade for the course will be determined as follows: 30% policy memo; 30% Op-ed; 30% class participation; and 10% testimony. The class participation portion of your grade will be determined by attendance
and your contributions to the discussion each week. The written and oral assignments will be graded holistically, but I will distribute a guide to the key elements on which you will be assessed in advance of each assignment.

Expectations 
This course is geared towards building the knowledge and expertise necessary to evaluate and communicate reproductive health policy. It is also designed to provide a broad overview of the origins of reproductive rights, the essential biomedical knowledge underpinning reproductive health, and the key conversations surrounding reproductive health and rights taking place in society today. No prior knowledge of any of the above course
elements is assumed. All that is required to succeed in this course is an interest in the topic and a willingness to put in the time and effort required to complete the readings and assignments and contribute to the weekly discussions. 
 
The policy memo and op-ed assignments are designed to improve both your writing and critical thinking skills. If you have never written either of these types of pieces before, don’t worry: this is a great opportunity to learn. To ensure that you have access t resources and support, you will be asked to make an appointment with the Undergraduate WritingCenter: http://uwc.utexas.edu
 
You are welcome and encouraged to attend office hours (TBA). If you feel you are struggling with course expectations
or with any aspect of the class, please make an appointment to see me right away.

Classroom Etiquette
In any course on public policy, we should expect a variety of perspectives and opinions among class participants. A diversity of view-points is a vital component both of academic enquiry and of policymaking. Every class member
is entitled to their own opinions. However, any opinions you choose to share must be expressed respectfully and other class members have the right to respectfully challenge your opinion. Offensive or hateful language will not be tolerated. Anyone who uses such language will be asked to leave the classroom.

Some of the issues we will discuss may be sensitive or may trigger upsetting reactions for some people. If this happens to you, please feel free to leave the classroom and take a break at any time. Please also feel free to let me know your feelings either during one of the breaks or after class. UT Counseling Services also have resources available for further support: https://cmhc.utexas.edu
 
If you choose to use a laptop to take notes in class, use it only for that purpose. Checking email, being on social media, or devoting your attention to other internet distractions is disrespectful of everyone else’s time and effort. It also prevents you from getting the best out of the class.
About the Professor:
Education
  • Ph.D., Public Policy, University of Texas at Austin
  • MPH, Harvard University
  • M.D., University of Cambridge
  • B.A., University of Cambridge
Research Areas
  • Reproductive Health
  • Health Policy
Teaching Areas
  • Social Policy

Abigail R.A. Aiken held postdoctoral and lecturer positions at the Office of Population Research and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University before joining The University of Texas in 2016. She is currently an assistant professor of public affairs at the LBJ School and a faculty associate at the Population Research Center. Her research focuses on reproductive health and spans several disciplines, combining backgrounds in biomedical sciences, public policy, demography and public health. Her current projects include: examining women's experiences obtaining self-sourced abortion in contexts where legislative barriers prevent access to safe, legal abortion through the health care system; evaluating programs and policies designed to increase access to contraception in the postpartum and postabortion setting; and investigating the determinants and impacts of unintended pregnancies through a health equity and reproductive justice framework. Her work has recently been published in the BMJ, The New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, Social Science & Medicine, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Contraception, and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others.

 

WGS 393 • Reproductive Health/Rights

47065 • Fall 2017
Meets M 2:00PM-5:00PM SRH 3.220

Interdisciplinary topics relating to Women's and Gender Studies.  Seats restricted to WGS MA and Portfolio students during early registration.  Check cross-listings for home departments and originating field of study.

WGS 393 • Honors Social Science

47152 • Fall 2016
Meets W 2:00PM-5:00PM SRH 3.360

Interdisciplinary topics relating to Women's and Gender Studies.  Seats restricted to WGS MA and Portfolio students during early registration.  Check cross-listings for home departments and originating field of study.

Curriculum Vitae


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  • Population Research Center

    University of Texas at Austin
    305 E. 23rd Street / RLP 2.602
    Mail Stop G1800
    Austin, Texas 78712-1699
    512-471-5514