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The effect of Women’s Right to Know Law on abortion providers in North Carolina

Rebecca Mercier, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2013

Project abstract

Background: Abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in the United States. Many states have laws affecting abortion practice, including restrictions on clinical care and the imposition of scripted speech for providers. Despite the ubiquity of restrictive laws, little is known about how these policies impact clinicians who provide abortions. North Carolina recently passed new legislation mandating waiting periods, ultrasounds, and a scripted informed consent. The new law provides an opportunity to study how such laws affect abortion providers, specifically their ability to deliver care, and the experience of providing care under restrictive policies.

Specific aims: To investigate the impact of the North Carolina Women’s Right to Know Act (WRTK) on abortion providers in North Carolina and to describe the experience of physicians and nurses providing care under the WRTK. This study focuses on the impact on the patient-physician relationship and the ethical implications of compliance with the law where it dictates practices which may conflict with the perceived best interests of the patient.

Methods: This study uses a qualitative design informed by grounded theory. The primary data collection method will be semi-structured in-depth interviews with abortion providers. Data will be analyzed using applied thematic analysis to identify key concepts describing the impact of restrictive laws on providers. These concepts will be used to develop a theoretical framework characterizing provider response and adaptation to restrictive laws.

Significance: Laws proscribing or restricting medical practice have proliferated recently across several specialties. Abortion providers are frequent targets of such laws. Little data exists to describe how these laws impact providers. This exploratory study will provide valuable new data describing the impact of such laws from the providers’ perspective. Data showing compromise of medical ethics or negative impact on the provider-physician relationship may strengthen opposition to such laws.


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