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Study: Fewer Doctors Are Offering Abortions

For women seeking an abortion, finding a doctor willing to offer the procedure is easier said than done.

Ninety-seven percent of obstetrician-gynecologists have encountered patients wanting an abortion, but only 14 percent performed them, according to a study published today in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Access to abortion has become more limited over the past few decades, according to the article. Another recent study found that in 2008, 87 percent of U.S. counties where 35 percent of reproductive-aged women live did not have a single abortion provider. Since 1996, however, all ob-gyn residents have been required to learn how to perform the procedure.

This year, states have passed at least 80 new abortion restrictions– double the previous annual record of 34 seen in 2005, and more than triple 2010’s 23 changes.

A patient’s best chance of finding a willing doctor?

  • Women physicians are more likely than male physicians to provide an abortion (18.6 percent v. 10.6 percent)
  • Young doctors (ages 26 to 35) are the most likely to offer abortion, followed by the oldest doctors (ages 56 to  65)
  • Doctors in the Northeast or West are more likely to offer the procedure than those in the South or Midwest
  • Urban doctors are more likely than rural doctors to perform abortions

Religion also turns out to be a good indicator of whether a doctor will provide abortions.

  • 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

Few doctors who work in Catholic facilities, which often restrict abortion, offered the procedure.

The study was based on a self-administered confidential survey sent to a sample of 1,800 ob-gyns practicing in the United States.  A total of 1,144 doctors responded.

It did not assess whether doctors who don’t offer abortions themselves referred their patients to their colleagues who did, which could help improve access.