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To examine the role of healthcare providers in women's experiences attempting self-managed abortion.
This study draws from in-depth interviews with women who attempted a self-managed abortion within the past 10 years. Respondents were recruited using social media advertisements and were eligible if they were at least 14 years old, spoke English or Spanish, and lived in the US near the Mexican border. I thematically indexed transcripts and applied analytic codes to explore the role of healthcare providers in women's experiences.
Between June 2020 and January 2021, 55 women participated in an interview. Most interview respondents (n=39) had had contact with a pharmacist, clinic staff member, or medical provider prior to or following their self-managed abortion attempt. They did so through both formal pathways (eg, clinic-based information or services such as ultrasound) and informal pathways (eg, information and medications from people in their social networks and south of the US border). Respondents who contacted a healthcare provider reported a range of experiences, including positive responses that provided comfort and validation, neutral responses that normalized self-management, and negative responses that resulted in emotional stress and led women to conceal their health needs and experiences.
As abortion becomes further restricted in the US, more people will turn to self-managed abortion. Providers should be made aware of the consequences of negative reactions toward people seeking care and understand the critical role they might play (both formally and informally) in reducing risk, harm, and stigma in this new legal landscape.
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