Out of the margins: Dismantling stigma and disrupting stereotypes of abortion providers
Awarded 2016
Interdisciplinary Innovation (Phase 2) Grants
Lisa Harris, MD, PHD
University of Michigan

Objectives: Abortion providers are commonly depicted as dangerous and callous which generates distress for providers, undue fear among patients, and restrictive legislation. We hypothesized that disrupting these stereotypes could reduce medical marginalization for providers and decrease abortion stigma. We created a short documentary film with the aim of disrupting negative stereotypes, and we developed and validated a new scale to measure attitudes about abortion providers. Methods: In Phase 1 of this project, we met with communications experts and learned that storytelling in film can have powerful effects in changing attitudes and beliefs. In Phase 2, we created a short documentary film featuring the narratives of abortion providers and of their medical colleagues. We also created and pilot-tested a novel scale assessing attitudes about abortion providers among faculty physicians at our institution. Results: We collaborated with documentarian Jan Haaken to produce a short documentary. However, we were surprised to learn that baseline attitudes about abortion providers were overwhelmingly favorable at our institution. For this reason, we determined that we could not test the impact of the film in this setting. We will continue to test the impact of the film in ongoing projects in other settings. Conclusions: While prior SFP-funded work with abortion providers showed that many feel looked down upon by their medical colleagues, in this study, we observed that the majority of physicians held favorable attitudes about abortion providers and were supportive of their work. This discrepancy may represent internalized stigma on the part of abortion providers.