Friday, February 09, 2007

Many Doctors Do Not Advise about Abortion

According to this story, there are a lot of doctors that do not refer women for abortions or inform patients when abortion is an option. (Via

A new survey of doctors nationwide finds 52 percent said they oppose abortion and others wouldn't refer women considering an abortion to a place that does them. The survey also found some physicians believe it is appropriate to withhold information about abortion on moral grounds.
University of Chicago researchers conducted the study with interviews of 1,144 doctors around the country. It is believed to be the first comprehensive survey of the moral attitudes of physicians.

The study found 14 percent of those surveyed do not believe they are required to tell a patient about all treatment options when it comes to morally objectionable procedures such as abortion.

And 29 percent of physicians say they do not feel they must refer someone to another doctor for a treatment they oppose or were undecided.

Doctors who described themselves as strong Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic, were more likely to refuse a referral or more information about morally objectionable procedures like abortion.

I disagree with this policy. While I think doctors should be free to reject performing abortions, doctors have a duty to inform patients of all their options. I'm not as bothered that doctors wouldn't do referrals in this case, but it still seems like they have a duty to supply information to their patients.
Dr. Gary Smith, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the Women's Health Center at Robinwood in Hagerstown, Maryland, is one such doctor.

Smith does not do abortions or refer women to physicians that do and he won't tell a pregnant woman that abortion is an option.

"They know it's an option," he told the Baltimore Sun newspaper. "They don't need me to tell them abortion exists."

"I was always taught I have two patients: the mother and the baby," he said. "Why would I want to send somebody out to hurt their baby?"

I don't think it's fair to say women know abortion is an option. Under certain circumstances, a woman may think there are other options and not understand that abortion is the only one available.

For example, I had a doctor want to do the alphafetal protein test when I was pregnant with my second child. The nurse explained that it was to detect Downs Syndrome. I asked what the options were if the baby had Downs and she replied (matter of factly) that I could either continue the pregnancy or abort. I was a little surprised that those were the only options available, but at least I had all the options laid in front of me.

Not surprisingly, female doctors are more likely to refer patients than male doctors.

Interestingly, 42 percent of doctors opposed prescribing birth control for minors without parental consent.