Associate Professor of Sociology
Siri Suh is a medical sociologist with research interests in global maternal and reproductive health, population and development, and feminist and postcolonial studies of science, medicine, and technology. Her research has been funded by the American Association of University Women, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. She has conducted research on maternal and reproductive health with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Guttmacher Institute, Global Doctors for Choice, and Management Sciences for Health (MSH).
Siri's interest in post-abortion care (the treatment of complications of incomplete abortion) was kindled during her work in the mid-2000s as a public health professional with an international NGO in Senegal, where induced abortion is prohibited under any circumstance. As part of her work in monitoring and evaluating post-abortion care, she spoke with health workers about treating obstetric complications, but never about the kinds of abortions being treated, or the likelihood that part of their clinical caseload might be related to illegally induced abortion. The silence around induced abortion in Senegal’s post-abortion care program illustrated with striking clarity, nearly thirty years later, the lingering geopolitical effects of the infamous 1984 Mexico City Policy (also known as the Global Gag Rule), and how anti-abortion development aid actively jeopardized the quality of reproductive health care.
In 2009, Siri returned to Senegal as a PhD student to investigate the questions she could not ask while working with a USAID-funded NGO: what does it mean to practice and evaluate post-abortion care in a country where induced abortion is illegal and the US has been the most generous donor of population aid since the early 1980s? To answer these questions, she observed post-abortion care services and records at government hospitals and interviewed health professionals, government health authorities, NGO workers, and law enforcement officials. Additionally, she reviewed epidemiological data on abortion and post-abortion care, newspaper reports of illegal abortion, and court records of women and practitioners prosecuted for illegal abortion.
In Dying to Count: Post-Abortion Care and Global Reproductive Health Politics in Senegal (Rutgers University Press, 2021), Siri shows how health workers, health officials, and NGO workers strive to demonstrate the intervention’s effectiveness in reducing maternal mortality despite a lack of rigorous statistical evidence. Dying to Count reveals how pragmatically assembled post-abortion care data convey commitments to maternal mortality reduction goals while obscuring the frequency of unsafe abortion and the inadequate care women with complications are likely to receive in government hospitals. Although Dying to Count recognizes the need for post-abortion care in settings with restrictive abortion laws, the book demonstrates how the intervention fails to achieve reproductive justice at a time when African women face the highest risk worldwide of mortality and morbidity from complications related to pregnancy, birth, and abortion.
Siri’s new project explores how misoprostol, a uterotonic medication, is transforming the technological, clinical, professional, and political landscape of reproduction in Francophone West Africa. She received funding from the Hewlett Foundation to conduct comparative, multi-sited ethnography on the availability, distribution, procurement, and use of misoprostol by women, health professionals, and national and international NGOs in Burkina Faso and Senegal. Between 2022 and 2023, she will collaborate with colleagues at Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo and Université Cheikh Anta Diop to investigate approved and off-label use of misoprostol in public and private health care sectors. The project explores how a pill that promises to reduce maternal mortality by placing obstetric care directly “into women’s hands” simultaneously opens and forecloses possibilities for achieving reproductive justice.
- PhD in Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University, 2014
- MPH, Columbia University, 2004
- BA in Sociology, University of California at Berkeley, 2000
Suh, Siri. (2021). Dying to Count: Post-Abortion Care and Global Reproductive Health Politics in Senegal. Rutgers University Press.
Suh, Siri. (2021). “A stalled revolution: Misoprostol and the pharmaceuticalization of reproductive health in Francophone Africa.” Frontiers in Sociology, 6 (Special Issue on Global Health and Pharmacology), 590556. https://doi.org/10.3389/fsoc.
Suh, S. 2018. "Metrics of survival: Post-abortion care and reproductive rights in Senegal." Medical Anthropology, DOI: 10.1080/01459740.2018.1496333.
Suh, S. (2018). Accounting for abortion: Accomplishing transnational reproductive governance through post-abortion care in Senegal. Global Public Health,13:6 (Special Issue: Re-Situating Abortion: Biopolitics, Global Health and Rights in Neoliberal Times), 662-679.
Suh, S. (2017). "New President, Old Anti-Abortion Policy: Continuing Contradictions in US Global ‘Family Planning’ Policies." Gender Policy Report, University of Minnesota, http://genderpolicyreport.umn.edu/new-president-old-anti-abo
Jaffré, Y., & Suh, S. (2016). Where the lay and the technical meet: Using an anthropology of interfaces to explain persistent reproductive health disparities in West Africa. Social Science & Medicine, 156, 175-183.
Suh, S. (2015). "Right tool," wrong "job": Manual vacuum aspiration, post-abortion care and transnational population politics in Senegal. Social Science & Medicine, 135, 56-66.
Suh, S. (2014). Rewriting abortion: deploying medical records in jurisdictional negotiation over a forbidden practice in Senegal. Social Science & Medicine, 108, 20-33.
Suh, S., Moreira, P., & Ly, M. (2007). Improving quality of reproductive health care in Senegal through formative supervision: results from four districts. Human resources for health, 5(1), 26.
Thiam, F. T., Suh, S., & Moreira, P. (2006). Scaling up postabortion care services: results from Senegal. Management Sciences for Health Occasional Papers, 5, 1-27