Press Release: New Research on Physician Attitudes Toward Abortion by the Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (UW CORE)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 11, 2021
CORE: Collaborative for Reproductive Equity
University of Wisconsin-Madison
smherndon@wisc.edu

Press Release: New Research on Physician Attitudes Toward Abortion by the Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (UW CORE)

A new study by UW-Madison researchers documents overwhelming support of abortion services among Wisconsin physicians, but many thought that their peers were less supportive. Their new article in the journal Contraception, titled “Physician attitudes about abortion and their willingness to consult in abortion care at a Midwestern academic medical center,” shares these and other key  findings.

The new research was published by Nicholas Schmuhl, PhD, Laurel Rice, MD, Cynthia Wautlet, MD, and Jenny Higgins, PhD. The article is part of a larger research project based at UW CORE, the Collaborative for Reproductive Equity. The authors’ objective was to assess abortion-related attitudes, practices, and perceptions among physicians of all specialties within a Wisconsin-based teaching hospital.

The researchers surveyed 913 physicians at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Physicians surveyed, who represent more than 20 medical specialties, reported at least some degree of support for unrestricted access to abortion (80%, with 62% reporting “a lot” of support), and at least some degree of support for the efforts of abortion providers (84%, with 69% reporting “a lot” of support). About half of all survey respondents estimated lower support for abortion access and providers among their fellow doctors (51%), likely reflecting abortion stigma.

Across medical specialties, 9 out of 10 physicians said that women’s healthcare in Wisconsin would be worse if Roe v. Wade were overturned, and the same amount (90%) said they were willing or at least somewhat willing to consult in abortion-related cases. Physicians who perceived equal or higher support for abortion among peers were more likely to be willing to consult in abortion-related care. Those who perceived less support among peers reported less willingness to consult.

“Our results suggest that physicians support patients’ rights to access abortion services and value the efforts of their colleagues who provide abortion-related care,” said Dr. Nicholas Schmuhl. He continued, “Most expressed their support in the strongest possible terms, though they were not fully aware of the overwhelming support among their peers. Awareness of the true climate of opinion matters, because physicians are more willing to consult or participate in abortion-related care when they know that their colleagues have a similar perspective.”

Where abortion care is isolated or stigmatized, physicians may be unaware of colleagues’ true attitudes about abortion. Efforts to normalize communication about abortion care could improve access and quality, according to the study’s findings.

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The Collaborative for Reproductive Equity (CORE) is an initiative within the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. CORE investigators conduct rigorous, interdisciplinary research focused on reproductive health, equity, and autonomy in Wisconsin, and beyond.