Chilean medical and midwifery faculty’s views on conscientious objection for abortion services

Lidia Casas, Lori Freedman, Alejandra Ramm, Sara Correa, C Finley Baba, M Antonia Biggs

International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

CONTEXT: In 2017, Chile reformed its abortion law to allow the procedure under limited circumstances. Exploring the views of Chilean medical and midwifery faculty regarding abortion and the use of conscientious objection (CO) at the time of reform can inform how these topics are being taught to the country’s future health care providers.

METHODS: Between March and September 2017, 30 medical and midwifery school faculty from universities in Santiago, Chile were interviewed; 20 of the faculty taught at secular universities and 10 taught at religiously affiliated universities. Faculty perspectives on CO and abortion, the scope of CO, and teaching about CO and abortion were analyzed using a grounded theory approach.

RESULTS: Most faculty at secular and religiously affiliated universities supported the rights of clinicians to refuse to provide abortion care. Secular-university faculty generally thought that CO should be limited to specific providers and rejected the idea of institutional CO, whereas religious-university faculty strongly supported the use of CO by a broad range of providers and at the institutional level. Only secular-university faculty endorsed the idea that CO should be regulated so that it does not hinder access to abortion care.

CONCLUSIONS: The broader support for CO in abortion among religious-university faculty raises concerns about whether students are being taught their ethical responsibility to put the needs of their patients above their own. Future research should monitor whether Chile’s CO regulations and practices are guaranteeing people’s access to abortion care..

Casas L, Freedman L, Ramm A, Correa S, Baba CF, Biggs MA. Chilean medical and midwifery faculty’s views on conscientious objection for abortion services. Int Persp Sex Repro Health. 2020;46:25-34.

“She’s on her own”: a thematic analysis of clinicians’ comments on abortion referral

Nazeneen Homaifar, Lori Freedman,Valerie French


: The objective was to understand the motivations around and practices of abortion referral among women’s health providers.

Methods: We analyzed the written comments from a survey of Nebraska physicians and advanced-practice clinicians in family medicine and obstetrics-gynecology about their referral practices and opinions for a woman seeking an abortion. We analyzed clinician’s responses to open-ended questions on abortion referral thematically.

Results: Of the 496 completed surveys, 431 had comments available for analysis. We found four approaches to abortion referral: (a) facilitating a transfer of care, (b) providing the abortion clinic name or phone number, (c) no referral and (4) misleading referrals to clinicians or facilities that do not provide abortion care. Clinicians described many motivations for their manner of referral, including a fiduciary obligation to refer, empathy for the patient, respect for patient autonomy and the lack of need for referral. We found that abortion stigma impacts referral as clinicians explained that patients often desire additional privacy and clinicians themselves seek to avoid tension among their staff. Other clinicians would not provide an abortion referral, citing moral or religious objections or stating they did not know where to refer women seeking abortion. Some respondents would refer women to other providers for additional evaluation or counseling before an abortion, while others sought to dissuade the woman from obtaining an abortion.

Conclusions: While practices and motivations varied, few clinicians facilitated referral for abortion beyond verbally naming a clinic if an abortion referral was made at all.

Implications: Interprofessional leadership, enhanced clinician training and public policy that addresses conscientious refusal of abortion referral are needed to reduce abortion stigma and ensure that women can access safe care.

Homaifar N, Freedman L,French V. “She’s on her own”: a thematic analysis of clinicians’ comments on abortion referral. Contraception. 2017 May;95(5):470-476. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2017.01.007. Epub 2017 Jan 25.