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What should medical students be taught about abortion? An evaluation of student attitudes towards their abortion teaching and their future involvement in abortion care

Cohen, P; Mayhew, J; Gishen, F; Potts, HWW; Lohr, PA; Kavanagh, J; (2021) What should medical students be taught about abortion? An evaluation of student attitudes towards their abortion teaching and their future involvement in abortion care. BMC Medical Education , 21 (1) , Article 4. 10.1186/s12909-020-02414-9. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: One in three women in the United Kingdom (UK) will have an abortion before age 45, making abortion provision an essential aspect of reproductive healthcare. Despite this, abortion remains ethically contested and stigmatised, with variable teaching in UK medical schools and concerns about falling numbers of doctors willing to participate in abortion care. University College London Medical School (UCLMS) has designed practical, inclusive, teaching that aims to give students an understanding of the importance of abortion care and prepare them to be competent practitioners in this area. This study aimed to determine students' opinions of this teaching and their wider attitudes towards abortion. METHODS: We invited all 357 final-year UCL medical students to complete an online survey consisting of closed-ended questions, exploring their opinions on their abortion teaching, their personal beliefs about abortion and their future willingness to be involved in abortion care. We analysed responses using non-parametric tests. RESULTS: One hundred and forty-six questionnaires (41% response rate) showed 83% of students identified as pro-choice (agree with the right to choose an abortion). Fifty-seven percent felt they received the right amount of abortion teaching, 39% would have liked more and 4% stated they received too much. There was no correlation between students' attitudes to abortion and the rating of teaching; both pro-choice and pro-life (opposed to the right to choose an abortion) students generally rated the teaching as important and valued the range of methods used. Students requested more simulated practice speaking to patients requesting an abortion. Students with pro-life beliefs expressed lower willingness to discuss, refer, certify and provide future abortions. Students interested in careers in specialties where they may encounter abortion were more likely to be pro-choice than pro-life. CONCLUSIONS: The majority of participating UCL medical students were pro-choice and willing to be involved in future abortion care. Efforts to make teaching on abortion practical, engaging, sensitive and inclusive were appreciated. As well as preparing students to be competent and caring practitioners, the teaching appears to contribute towards them viewing abortion as an essential aspect of women's healthcare, and may contribute to destigmatising abortion.

Type: Article
Title: What should medical students be taught about abortion? An evaluation of student attitudes towards their abortion teaching and their future involvement in abortion care
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s12909-020-02414-9
Language: English
Additional information: Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Keywords: Abortion, Ethics and law, Inclusive curriculum, Medical students, Women’s health
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > UCL Medical School
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Health Informatics
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Health Informatics > CHIME
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10118465
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