Interprofessional Abortion Opposition: A National Survey and Qualitative Interviews with Abortion Training Program Directors at U.S. Teaching Hospitals

Ariana H. Bennett, University of California, Berkeley Lori Freedman, University of California, San Francisco Uta Landy, University of California, San Francisco Callie Langton, University of California, San Francisco Elizabeth Ly, University of California, San Francisco Corinne H. Rocca, University of California, San Francisco

First published online:

| DOI: https://doi.org/10.1363/psrh.12162
Abstract / Summary

Hospital policies and culture affect abortion provision. The prevalence and nature of colleague opposition to abortion and how this opposition limits abortion care in U.S. teaching hospitals have not been investigated.


As part of a mixed‐methods study, a nationwide survey of residency and site directors at 169 accredited obstetrics‐gynecology training programs was conducted in 2015–2016, and 18 in‐depth interviews with program directors were conducted in 2014 and 2017. The prevalence and nature of interprofessional opposition were examined using descriptive statistics, and regional differences were investigated using logistic regression. A modified grounded theoretical approach was used to analyze interview data.


Among the 91% of survey respondents who reported that they or their colleagues had wanted or needed to provide abortions in the prior year, 69% faced opposition from colleagues. Most commonly, opposition came from nurses (58%), nursing administration (30%) and anesthesiologists (30%), manifesting as resistance to participating in or cooperating with procedures (51% and 38%, respectively). Fifty‐nine percent of respondents had denied care to patients in the prior year because of colleagues’ opposition. Respondents in the Midwest and South were more likely than those in the Northeast to deny abortion care to patients because of such opposition (odds ratios, 3.2 and 4.4, respectively). Interviews revealed how participants had to circumvent opposing colleagues, making abortion provision difficult and leading to delays in and, infrequently, denial of abortion care.


Interprofessional opposition to abortion is widespread in U.S. teaching hospitals. Interventions are needed that prioritize patients’ needs while recognizing the challenges hospital colleagues face in their abortion participation decisions.

Author's Affiliations

At the time of the study, Ariana H. Bennett was a doctoral student, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley. Lori Freedman was associate professor, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH); Uta Landy was national director, Kenneth J. Ryan Residency Training Program in Abortion and Family Planning and the Fellowship in Family Planning; Callie Langton was director, policy and programs; Elizabeth Ly was projects manager; and Corinne H. Rocca was associate professor, ANSIRH—all at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.


The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Guttmacher Institute.