Fewer Doctors Willing to Do Abortions, New Study Shows

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 23, 2011   |   10:52AM   |   Washington, DC

A new study provides more good news for pro-life advocates, as it shows fewer doctors are willing to perform abortions than before — creating a situation where the lower availability of abortion may be helping to reduce abortions.

The new report, published today in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, finds 97 percent of physicians surveyed say they have encountered patients wanting an abortion while only 14 percent of doctors are willing to do an abortion. That’s lower than the 22 percent of doctors who said they would do an abortion in the last poll, from 2008.

The researchers conducted a national probability sample mail survey of 1,800 practicing OBGYNs asking about “whether respondents ever encountered patients seeking abortions in their practice and whether they provided abortion services.” The results showed that demographics and religion play a big role in whether an OBGYN is willing to do abortions.

Women were much more likely than male doctors to say they would do an abortion (18.6 percent v. 10.6 percent); doctors aged 26-35 and 56-65 were more likely to say they would do abortions compared to those 36-45 and 46-55; and physicians in urban areas were more likely to say they would do an abortion compared with doctors in smaller cities and rural settings. Meanwhile, doctors in the Northeast or West are more likely to say they would do an abortion versus those in the South or Midwest.

Looking at religion, Jewish doctors were most likely to say they would do an abortion and those with no religion or of the Hindu religion were next most likely. Evangelical Christians were the most likely to not want to do abortions while Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and non-evangelical Protestants were next most likely to decline.

Some 40.2 percent of Jewish doctors say yes to doing an abortion compared to 1.2 percent of Evangelical Protestants,  9 percent of Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox, 10.1 percent of Non-Evangelical Protestants, 20 percent of Hindus, and 26.5 percent of doctors who said they had no religious affiliation.

The study was based on a self-administered confidential survey sent to a sample of 1,800 OBGYNs practicing in the United States and 1,144 doctors responded. The survey did not ask about whether physicians who don’t do abortions themselves would refer women to someone who does.

A survey done in 2008 by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research organization previously affiliated with Planned Parenthood, found there were at least 1,787 abortion “doctors” in the United States but it revealed stark numbers when it comes to those who do abortions later in pregnancy. Of the 1,787, the study found that “[t]wenty percent of providers offered abortions after 20 weeks [LMP], and only 8% at 24 weeks [LMP].”

Though the numbers seem small, that translates to at least 300 “doctors” who will perform abortions after 20 weeks LMP and 140 willing to perform abortions at 24 weeks LMP.

A University of Chicago survey of 1,144 doctors around the country in February 2007 found 52 percent said they oppose abortion and others wouldn’t refer women considering an abortion to a place that does them. The survey also found some physicians believe it is appropriate to withhold information about abortion on moral grounds.

The study found 14 percent of those surveyed do not believe they are required to tell a patient about all treatment options when it comes to morally objectionable procedures such as abortion. And 29 percent of physicians say they do not feel they must refer someone to another doctor for a treatment they oppose or were undecided.

Doctors who described themselves as strong Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic, were more likely to refuse a referral or more information about morally objectionable procedures like abortion.