Abortion Is Legal, but What Percentage of Ob-gyns Will Provide One?


A new study released by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, from main author Debra Stulberg, surveys 1,144 ob-gyns (1,800 were initially approached) to see how many provide abortion services. Though legal, abortion is much harder to come by than one might expect: while 97% of ob-gyns reported having encountered women seeking an abortion, only 14% said they were willing to perform the service.

The authors further break down willing abortion providers based on gender, location, and religious affiliation. Here’s the abstract:

OBJECTIVE: To estimate prevalence and correlates of abortion provision among practicing obstetrician–gynecologists (ob-gyns) in the United States.

METHODS: We conducted a national probability sample mail survey of 1,800 practicing ob-gyns. Key variables included whether respondents ever encountered patients seeking abortions in their practice and whether they provided abortion services. Correlates of providing abortion included physician demographic characteristics, religious affiliation, religiosity, and the religious affiliation of the facility in which a physician primarily practices.

RESULTS: Among practicing ob-gyns, 97% encountered patients seeking abortions, whereas 14% performed them. Female physicians were more likely to provide abortions than were male (18.6% compared with 10.6%, adjusted odds ratio 2.54, 95% confidence interval 1.57–4.08), as were those in the youngest age group, those in the Northeast or West, those in highly urban postal codes, and those who identify as being Jewish. Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, non-Evangelical Protestants, and physicians with high religious motivation were less likely to provide abortions.

CONCLUSION: The proportion of U.S. ob-gyns who provide abortions may be lower than estimated in previous research. Access to abortion remains limited by the willingness of physicians to provide abortion services, particularly in rural communities and in the South and Midwest.

Jezebel.com includes the numbers on abortion providers by religion:

40.2 percent of Jewish doctors say yes, compared with
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
26.5 percent of doctors who said they had no religious affiliation

This year has seen a huge spike in abortion restrictions from state legislatures.  According to a Guttmacher Institute survey, of the 162 reproductive health provisions passed in the first six months of 2011, 80 restrict abortion, twice the number from 2005.


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  1. 164 says:

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  2. Enter your name says:

    Leaving aside the fact that “not personally providing an abortion to all comers” is not the same as “not telling the patient where and how to get an abortion”, I wonder how many of them do not provide abortions because of worries about market-based effects on their practice.

    A person strongly opposed to abortion should not be forced to choose an abortion-providing physician, just like a racial bigot’s health is better served by not forcing him to see a physician of the race he despises. I have trouble imagining that a woman who truly believes that abortion is murder would freely choose an abortionist to take care of her health. If the case of a threatened miscarriage (an event not known for producing stable emotions), even a person with rather moderate views might have some trouble trusting that an abortionist would do everything possible to save the life of her baby.

    It’s entirely possible that if you performed abortions, you would lose the bulk of your non-abortion practice, especially if you work in an area dominated by pro-life sentiments.

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  3. AaronS says:

    To resolve the abortion debate, only a very little movement is needed from both sides. The pro-lifers need to admit that something no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence is not of the same emotional value as a newborn child or a grown adult. Yes, it has the POTENTIAL to become a child, but if it’s REALLY murder to abort something at that stage, then will you agree that the mother should be imprisoned and executed?

    This is where the rubber meets the road. Most of them know girls who have had abortions…and, no, they don’t think we need to get THAT serious about it. But if it’s really murder…. So you see their problem

    On the pro-choice side, they need to quit acting like taking away partial birth abortion is a reduction in human rights. We are all emotionally repulsed by a method that kills a fully-formed, living baby inside the womb in order to avoid any charges of infanticide by killing it once it is born. To protect that in the name of abortion rights is as repugnant as protecting slavery in the name of State’s Rights–maybe worse.

    So the moves are simple: The pro-lifers need to agree that in return for no abortions (except in the case of literal and immediate danger to the mother) after, say, six weeks, the pro-choicers will agree to the same thing, therby giving up partial birth abortion.


    Why? Because if we settle this, pro-lifers will not be able to raise money to save children. Politicians will not be able to attract the votes of those for whom abortion is the most important issue on the ballot. Planned Parenthood would lose support in trying to protect “a woman’s right to choose.”


    George W. Bush, a Republican President, had a Republican Congress, yet we still have abortion. You don’t want to pass any laws about abortion when you depend on abortion to keep the religious folks voting for you instead of the Democrats. After all, if there’s no abortion to fight over, those religious folks might start thinking that the Democrats have a pretty good program to try to feed the poor and all the other stuff that Jesus seems to be for.

    I am such a cynic.

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    • Enter your name says:

      “no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence”

      You are incorrectly assuming that most induced abortions are performed within days of the first missed period. The median abortion (US statistics) is performed at least a full month after this, when the embryo is one-half to three-quarters inch long.

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      • Julie says:

        I think you could rewrite the original sentence to be: “The pro-lifers need to admit that something no bigger than 3/4″ long is not of the same emotional value as a newborn child or a grown adult.” Even phrased like this, it’s still valid.

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