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Abortion Provision Among Practicing Obstetrician–Gynecologists

Stulberg, Debra B. MD, MAPP; Dude, Annie M. MD, PhD; Dahlquist, Irma BS; Curlin, Farr A. MD

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31822ad973
Original Research

OBJECTIVE: To estimate prevalence and correlates of abortion provision among practicing obstetrician–gynecologists (ob-gyns) in the United States.

METHODS: We conducted a national probability sample mail survey of 1,800 practicing ob-gyns. Key variables included whether respondents ever encountered patients seeking abortions in their practice and whether they provided abortion services. Correlates of providing abortion included physician demographic characteristics, religious affiliation, religiosity, and the religious affiliation of the facility in which a physician primarily practices.

RESULTS: Among practicing ob-gyns, 97% encountered patients seeking abortions, whereas 14% performed them. Female physicians were more likely to provide abortions than were male (18.6% compared with 10.6%, adjusted odds ratio 2.54, 95% confidence interval 1.57–4.08), as were those in the youngest age group, those in the Northeast or West, those in highly urban postal codes, and those who identify as being Jewish. Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, non-Evangelical Protestants, and physicians with high religious motivation were less likely to provide abortions.

CONCLUSION: The proportion of U.S. ob-gyns who provide abortions may be lower than estimated in previous research. Access to abortion remains limited by the willingness of physicians to provide abortion services, particularly in rural communities and in the South and Midwest.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: II

Among U.S. obstetrician– gynecologists, 14% provide abortion; abortion providers tend to be young, female, less religious, and practice in urban areas.

From the Departments of Family Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Medicine and the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.

Supported by grants from the Greenwall Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (1 K23 AT002749 to Dr. Curlin). Dr. Stulberg is supported by a career development award (1 K08 HD060663) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The authors thank John Yoon and Kenneth A. Rasinski for their technical assistance with the study and Stacy Lindau and Anne Lyerly for their assistance in questionnaire development.

Corresponding author: Debra B. Stulberg, 5841 South Maryland Avenue, MC 7110, Suite M–156, Chicago, IL 60637; e-mail: stulberg@uchicago.edu.

Financial Disclosure The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.

© 2011 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.