Normalising abortion: what role can health professionals play?

Maxwell, K. J., Hoggart, L., Bloomer, F., Rowlands, S. and Purcell, C. (2020) Normalising abortion: what role can health professionals play? BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, (doi: 10.1136/bmjsrh-2019-200480) (PMID:32241826) (Early Online Publication)

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Abstract

Background: Despite being a common gynaecological procedure, abortion continues to be widely stigmatised. The research and medical communities are increasingly considering ways of reducing stigma, and health professionals have a role to play in normalising abortion as part of routine sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH). We sought to investigate how health professionals may normalise abortion and challenge prevailing negative sociocultural narratives. Methods: As part of the Sexuality and Abortion Stigma Study (SASS), qualitative secondary analysis was conducted on two datasets containing health professionals’ accounts of providing abortion in Scotland and England. A subsample of 20 interviews were subjected to in-depth, thematic analysis. Results: Four key themes were identified in heath professionals’ accounts: (1) encountering resistance to abortion from others working in SRH; (2) contending with prevailing negative sociocultural narratives of abortion; (3) enacting overt positivity towards abortion provision; and (4) presenting abortion as part of normal, routine healthcare. Conclusions: It is clear that negative attitudes toward abortion persist both inside and outside of healthcare systems, and need to be challenged in order to destigmatise those accessing and providing services. Health professionals can play a key role in normalising abortion, through the ways in which they frame their work and present abortion to women they treat, and others more widely. Our analysis suggests a key way to achieve this is by presenting abortion as part of normal, routine SRH, but that appropriate support and structural change are essential for normalisation to become embedded.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Early Online Publication
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Purcell, Dr Carrie and Maxwell, Dr Karen
Authors: Maxwell, K. J., Hoggart, L., Bloomer, F., Rowlands, S., and Purcell, C.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN:2515-1991
ISSN (Online):2515-2009
Published Online:03 April 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health 2020
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727631SPHSU Core Renewal: Relationships & Health Improvement Research ProgrammeLisa McDaidMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/11IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
SPHSU11