MYTH: “Most service providers object to abortion.”

September 28, Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion

#BustTheMyths

Fight #AbortionStigma & Discrimination!

LM-abortionStigmaSP-info4-150915

 Download the Fact sheet here! Fact sheet: Service Providers (596)

MYTH: Most service providers object to abortion. 

 It is a common myth that most service providers globally object to performing abortions, regardless of the abortion legislation in the country. Clearly, there is a high number of service providers who do not perform abortions in countries where it is illegal. Nevertheless, several studies show that a vast majority of obstetrician-gynecologists (ob-gyns) and other healthcare providers globally support abortion at least in some circumstances. National, regional and international ob-gyn societies are often active in advocating for policy change for safe and legal abortion, disseminating information, creating awareness and encouraging ob-gyns to support individuals’ access to safe, high-quality services.[1]

“It is so important that those of us who believe in abortion, who know the truth about abortion and are willing to speak out about abortion, continue to do so. Only in speaking out do we begin to remove the stigma that the anti-choice groups have attached to abortion.”[2] Medical Doctor, USA

In explaining their support and expressing their commitment to provide safe abortion services, service providers at all levels in the health system often draw on three related discourses:

  • A human rights discourse, recognizing access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion services, as a human right;[3]
  • A public health discourse, recognizing unsafe abortion as a serious and preventable public health problem, in which service providers can play an integral role in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity;[4] [5] and
  • A socio-cultural discourse, countering religious arguments undertaken in opposition to abortion with the rationale that women worldwide have terminated unwanted pregnancies since the beginning of recorded history, regardless of culture or religious beliefs.[6]

“If an emergency case comes to us, we must save the woman’s life. We must think about human rights. […] We will respect all rights and the rights to abortion. […] This means that if the woman doesn’t want this pregnancy it is her right.” [7]

Medical Doctor, Timor-Leste

 

“I worked in family planning during the old apartheid days. Many women took contraception but sometimes it failed… many of these women had unplanned children which ended up as street children or they had backstreet abortions, or tried to do the abortion themselves…. Many died. […]Then the right to safe termination was made legal. I decided to train as it would contribute to women having a choice, when contraceptives fail […] by training I was helping to provide a better life for women and their children. I was helping her access her right as a human being. […] I chose to train because I believe that women should have the right to choice, choice from dying. Nobody told me to think this way… the things I have seen made me think this way.” [8]                                                                           

 Nurse, South Africa

 

“As a doctor who takes care of women and their families every day, I know that in order to ensure their health and safety, women need access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion.”[9]

Medical Doctor, USA

 

“After knowing that there are safe abortions, and I’m doing it and I’ve done it, so I would advise what? It’s her choice if she doesn’t want it. Even if I refuse her to do it, she will end up doing criminal…” [10]                                                                                                                   

Midwife, Uganda

 

“Criminalizing abortion only makes the procedure unsafe.”[11]

Medical Doctor, Mexico

 

“Actually one of the reasons for being a TOP (Termination of Pregnancy) provider is that my culture has always had TOP providers although they were not called TOP providers.” [12]

Nurse, South Africa

 

“I believe in public health interventions that provide simple solutions to human suffering. As oral rehydration therapy and vaccines have been powerful, successful public health interventions, so too has been safe abortion. Universal access to contraception and safe abortion services are fundamental issues of social justice, and I am proud to participate in improving access to these services through advocacy, research, and providing my patients with the health care they need.” [13]                                                                                                            

 Medical Doctor, USA

Though many healthcare providers worldwide support access to safe and legal abortion, abortion-related stigma negatively affects the work, wellbeing, and rights of abortion service providers, even in contexts where abortion is legally available. Because of the stigma surrounding abortion, related information, care, and services within healthcare systems are often marginalized and underfunded, and healthcare providers who offer abortion services report experiencing disapproval, opposition, and isolation, both from their colleagues and their community at large.[14] [15] Exacerbating the issue is that within a given community, abortion stigma may be so extreme as to result not only in the social and professional isolation of abortion providers, but also their subjection to anti-choice harassment, intimidation, and violence.[16]

It is with this in mind that this September 28, we thank ob-gyns and other healthcare providers who, in spite of the risks they face, continue to:

  • Ensure access to safe medical care including safe abortion services;
  • Remain committed to respecting the human rights of pregnant individuals;
  • Provide safe and supportive environments;
  • Protect pregnant individuals’ life and health; and
  • Serve as Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) through the provision of their services,[17] working to defend and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights.

[1] Gasman, N. et al (2006): Abortion, social inequity, and women’s health: Obstetrician-gynecologists as agents of change. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 94 (3): 310-316. See also Global Doctors for Choice.

[2]  Physicians for Reproductive Health (2015), Abortion Access.

[3] Center for Reproductive Rights (2011), Safe and Legal Abortion is a Woman’s Human Right.

[4] World Health Organization (2012), Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems. 2nd Ed.

[5] Potgieter C et al (2004). South African nurses accounts for choosing to be termination of pregnancy providers. HEALTH SA GESONDHEID 9(2).

[6] Ipas (2010), Ten Facts About Abortion.

[7] Belton S et al (2009). Attitudes towards the legal context of unsafe abortion in Timor-Leste. Reproductive Health Matters, 17(34): 55-64.

[8] Potgieter C et al (2004). South African nurses accounts for choosing to be termination of pregnancy providers. HEALTH SA GESONDHEID 9(2).

[9] Physicians for Reproductive Health (2015), Testament of Rachel Stacy, MD, in Opposition to S.C. House Bill 3114.

[10] Mandira, Paul et al (2014). Barriers and facilitators in the provision of post-abortion care at district level in central Uganda – a qualitative study focusing on task sharing between physicians and midwives. BMC Health Services Research 14(28).

[11] Ipas Mexico (2015), YoEstoyContigo.

[12] Potgieter C et al (2004). South African nurses accounts for choosing to be termination of pregnancy providers. HEALTH SA GESONDHEID 9(2).

[13]  Physicians for Reproductive Health (2015), Provider Voices.

[14]Norris, A. et al (2011). Abortion Stigma: A Reconceptualization of Constituents, Causes, and Consequences. Women’s Health Issues 21(3): S49–S54.

[15] Dressler, Jennifer, et al (2013). The Perspective of Rural Physicians Providing Abortion in Canada: Qualitative Findings of the BC Abortion Providers Survey (BCAPS).

[16] NARAL Pro-Choice America, Anti-Choice Violence and Intimidation.

[17] By “Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs)”, we refer to women activists; men who defend women’s rights; lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) human rights defenders; and groups committed to the advancement of women’s human rights and sexual rights. For more references see Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition.