Original Research Article| Volume 104, ISSUE 3, P278-283, September 2021

Physician attitudes about abortion and their willingness to consult in abortion care at a Midwestern academic medical center



      To assess abortion-related attitudes, practices, and perceptions among physicians of all specialties at a Wisconsin academic medical center.

      Study design

      We developed and disseminated a cross-sectional web and mail survey to physicians at our academic center using a list generated by Human Resources. We performed descriptive analyses and assessed bivariate relationships between measures of support for abortion, perceived climate of opinion, willingness to consult in abortion-related cases, and sociodemographic and professional characteristics. We used binary logistic regression to model willingness to consult.


      We sent the survey to 1357 physicians and received 913 (67%) responses. Participants reported strong support for unrestricted access to abortion and the efforts of abortion providers but estimated relatively lower support among peers. Compared to 556 (62%) who reported “a lot” of support for abortion access, only 183 (21%) estimated the same level of support among peers. Similarly, 615 (69%) participants reported “a lot” of support for abortion providers, compared to only 227 (25%) who estimated the same level of support among peers. Participants most commonly estimated that peers “somewhat” support abortion access (381; 43%) and abortion providers (344; 39%). Across specialties, 799 (90%) physicians said they were at least “somewhat” willing to consult in abortion-related cases. Compared to obstetrician-gynecologists and family physicians, other specialists were less likely to be willing to consult (aOR = 0.43, 95% CI 0.29–0.65), though majorities of both groups were willing. Physicians who perceived equal or higher support for abortion among peers were more likely to be willing to consult (aOR = 2.17, 95% CI 1.60–2.95).


      Most physicians at our center reported support for abortion; however, those who perceived less support among peers reported less willingness to consult in abortion-related care, regardless of specialty.


      Even among physicians who supported abortion, the perception that peers were less supportive deterred participation in abortion-related care at our institution. Where abortion care is isolated or stigmatized, physicians may be unaware of colleagues’ true attitudes about abortion. Efforts to normalize communication about abortion care could improve access and quality.


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