Medical students’ attitudes to abortion: a comparison between Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Oslo

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Abstract

Background:

Abortion policy varies significantly between Northern Ireland and Norway. This is the first study to compare medical students’ attitudes towards abortion in two different countries.

Objective:

To assess medical students’ attitudes to abortion at the University of Oslo (UiO) and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

Design:

An anonymous questionnaire completed by 59 medical students at UiO and 86 medical students at QUB.

Participants:

Students who had completed their obstetrics and gynaecology placements during 2006/2007.

Results:

The students’ responses (UiO versus QUB) were as follows: response rate, 95.2% vs 92.5%; stated no religious affiliation, 48.0% vs 4.7%; pro-abortion, 78.2% vs 14.3% (χ2 = 58.160, p<0.001); had seen an abortion while studying medicine, 74.6% vs 9.4% (χ2 = 73.183, p<0.001); in favour of abortion when there was a threat to the mother’s life, 100% vs 93.3% (χ2 = 6.143, p = 0.150); in favour of providing abortion on the mother’s request, 86.4% vs 9.3% (χ2 = 42.067, p<0.001); in agreement that women should have access to free abortion services (mean value on a 5-point Likert scale 1.69 out of 5), versus in disagreement (mean 3.76, p<0.001).

Conclusion:

There were significant differences in students’ attitudes to abortion, reflecting differences in religious, legal and educational experiences.

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