Fewer Ob-Gyns Offering Abortion

September 15, 2011

Women seeking an abortion may have a difficult time finding a physician who performs the procedure, according to a study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology. In fact, study authors found that the number of obstetricians-gynecologists who offer abortion may be smaller than previously thought.

Women seeking an abortion may have a difficult time finding a physician who performs the procedure, according to a study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology. In fact, study authors found that the number of obstetricians-gynecologists who offer abortion may be smaller than previously thought.

To get a better sense of the prevalence and correlates of abortion provision among US ob-gyns, Dr Debra Stulberg, assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the Pritzker School of Medicine of the University of Chicago, and colleagues conducted a national probability sample survey mailed to 1,800 ob-gyns across the United States (final sample=1,031). While 97% of the respondents noted that they had encountered patients seeking an abortion, Stulberg et al. found that only 14.4% actually performed such a procedure.

The authors found some interesting trends regarding which clinicians performed abortions and which did not. For instance, gender affected likelihood of offering abortions, with female ob-gyns about 2.5 times more likely than their male counterparts to provide the procedure (18.6% versus 10.6%). Similarly, age also impacted likelihood of performing abortions. Clinicians 35 years or younger were most likely to offer the procedure followed by those between 56 and 65. Interestingly, clinicians between the age of 35 and 45 were the least likely to perform abortions.

Not surprisingly, religious affiliation also impacted the results. Stulberg and colleagues found that ob-gyns who identified themselves as being Jewish were more likely to perform abortions (odds ratio=3.27) than their counterparts. Clinicians who were Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, non-Evangelical Protestants and those who reported high religious motivation were less likely to offer the abortion (Figure). Offering the service also differed across geographical lines. Clinicians in the Northeast and West and in highly urban postal codes were more likely to perform abortions than their counterparts in the South or Midwest and rural areas.

Figure. Percent of ob-gyns offering abortion services by religious affiliation

 


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Stulberg et al.’s research echoes the findings of an earlier study and adds meaning to a study published earlier this year. In a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers found that only 22% of respondents had provided elective abortion in the past year. Meanwhile, researchers reported in January that 87% of US counties lacked clinicians who provided abortion services, and that about one-third (35%) of US women of reproductive age resided in those counties.

Based on their findings, Stulberg and colleagues believe there is a shortage of ob-gyns who offer abortion services to their patients. The researchers concluded, “Access to abortion remains limited by the willingness of physicians to provide abortion services, particularly in rural communities and in the South and Midwest.”

References:

Stulberg DB, Dude AM, Dahlquist I, Curlin FA. Obstet Gynecol. 2011;118(3):609-14.

Gold J. Proportion of OB-GYNs offering abortions may be lower than thought. Shots. August 22, 2011.