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Abortion is a safe procedure, but it is not always perceived as such, even among healthcare providers. These misperceptions may hinder physicians’ willingness to participate in abortion care. We documented physicians’ beliefs about abortion safety and associations between these beliefs and physician referral for and participation in abortion care.
A 2019 survey at Wisconsin's largest and only public medical school assessed practicing physicians’ abortion attitudes, beliefs, and practices (n=893). We conducted bivariate analyses followed by logistic regression to document relationships between physician beliefs about abortion safety and their participation in abortion care.
One in five physicians (22%, n=190) believed that abortion is not at all, a little, or somewhat safe compared with 78% (n=690) of physicians who reported that abortion is very or extremely safe. Findings indicated that medical specialty (obstetrics-gynecology vs. other; B=2.359, p=0.022), exposure to abortion during medical education (B=0.359, p=0.038), and religiosity (B=-0.526, p=0.004) were significantly associated with physicians’ beliefs about the safety of abortion. Providers who believed that abortion was very or extremely safe were more likely than those who did not to refer patients for abortion care (B=1.145, p<0.001). Beliefs about abortion safety were significantly associated with participation in abortion care in bivariate analyses (X2=5.834, p=0.016) but not in regression analysis (B=0.611, p=0.065).
While abortions are associated with extremely few adverse events, a sizable proportion of physicians in our study believed that abortion was not very safe. Results suggest that exposure to abortion during medical education leads to more accurate assessments of abortion safety, underscoring the importance of training in this area.
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© 2022 Published by Elsevier Inc.