Influence of Physician Attitudes on Willingness to Perform Abortion

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Abstract

Objective

To survey attitudes about abortion in a sample of physicians practicing in the Bronx, New York, identify factors associated with those attitudes, and investigate how attitudes about abortion influence willingness to do it.

Methods

A questionnaire mailed to obstetricians and gynecologists affiliated with a medical school in the Bronx elicited information on attitudes about abortion and the willingness to do it. Attitude scores were measured on a Likert scale ranging from 1 to 5, with 5 indicating a proponent attitude about abortion. The practice score ranged from 0 to 2, with 2 indicating proponent attitude about practicing abortion.

Results

The median attitude score was 3.8. Physicians were receptive to reasons for abortion that were medically indicated. A proponent attitude was found in non-Catholics and those who were trained in residency programs that required observing abortions. The median practice score was 1.2. The most important personal factors influencing a physician's decision not to perform abortions included lack of proper training and ethical and religious beliefs. There was a significant positive correlation between the attitude score and practice score (r = .42, P < .001).

Conclusion

Personal beliefs and past experience with abortion are associated with attitudes about abortion that, besides competence doing them, influence physicians' willingness to do them. Offering training in abortion might benefit physicians who are proponents and willing to perform abortions.

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