Pitzer College Professor Rachel VanSickle-Ward Delivers Research Paper at Western Political Science Association Conference

Rachel VanSickle-Ward, PhDClaremont, Calif. (April 3, 2013) — Pitzer College Assistant Professor of Political Studies Rachel VanSickle-Ward co-authored “The Battle Over Birth Control: Gendered Dimensions of Contraceptive Coverage” and presented the research paper at the Western Political Science Association’s annual conference “The Empires Strike Back!” on March 28-30 in Los Angeles, CA.

“The Battle Over Birth Control” explores the ways in which birth control policy is framed in political discourse. The paper focuses on the extent to which reporting on birth control is influenced by an author’s gender. While media watchdog groups have noted a gender gap in bylines, little empirical research in political science considers the consequences of this gap for news content. VanSickle-Ward and her co-authors analyzed the content of print and television coverage from August 1, 2011 to August 1, 2012, spanning a period of time from when the US Department of Health & Human Services issued an interim rule regarding birth control to when the final rule took effect. The paper finds that the gender of a byline does affect content in opinion pieces, but not in hard news items. In opinion pieces, the paper reveals that female writers were more likely to frame the discussion in terms of health and women’s rights while males were more likely to use an economic framework.

With support from the Scholar-in-Residence program at Pitzer College, VanSickle-Ward co-authored the paper with Kevin Wallsten, assistant professor of political science at California State University, Long Beach, and Shiyana Gunasekara ’14, a research assistant at Pitzer. Several Pitzer students provided research assistance, including: Jared Calvert ’13, Annelise Kent-Isaac ’13, Rachel Kipnes ’14, Maria Krol-Sinclair ’15, Aidan Lukomnik ’14, Leora Paradise ’14, Ruth Samson ’14, Mayte Sanchez ’13, Jenna Slater ’15, Gabriel Villarreal ’14 and Nicholas Weinmeister ’15. Scripps College student Claire Courtney ’13 also served on the research team.

Founded in 1948, the Western Political Science Association is an association of more than 1,350 political scientists that promotes the study and teaching of government and politics, fosters research and facilitates the discussion of public affairs.



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