Abortion attitudes and understanding among US medical students who have applied to Ob-Gyn residency: A qualitative study on potential future abortion provision
Awarded 2012
Large Research Grants
Deborah Bartz, MD, MPH
Brigham and Women's Hospital

Study Aims : 1.) To assess which factors influence medical students’ pre-residency intention to provide abortion. 2.) To determine how, if at all, medical students who have applied to obstetrics and gynecology residencies perceive abortion to be relevant to their future patients. 3.) To investigate how pre-residency intention to provide abortion is influenced through medical school training. Methods: We conducted qualitative interviews with fourth-year medical students who had applied for, but not yet been accepted to, an ob/gyn residency program. Semi-structured interviews explored the factors that influenced their attitudes towards abortion before medical school, transitions in attitudes that occurred during medical school, and how they perceive abortion to be relevant to their future training and medical practices. Narratives were analyzed for meaningful patterns based on an analytical approach. Results: We interviewed 74 students matriculated in 39 medical schools. We identified medical school to be the most formative time for 58 students who developed improved understanding and support for abortion care. Several factors affected this positive transition: 1.) a better understanding of the abortion process, 2.) more empathy in general towards patients, 3.) prior ambivalence due to a lack of abortion exposure, or 4.) exposure to emotionally complex cases, such as fetal anomalies. Many students discussed the process of choosing the specialty of ob/gyn and transitioning from a passive supporter of abortion to the realities of becoming an abortion provider. Conclusion: This study identifies several pathways by which students improve their overall attitudes towards abortion, such as increased exposure to abortion clinical scenarios and other patients.