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Breaking the silence in the primary care office: patients' attitudes toward discussing abortion during contraceptive counseling.

  • Author(s): Dianat, Shokoufeh;
  • Silverstein, Ilana A;
  • Holt, Kelsey;
  • Steinauer, Jody;
  • Dehlendorf, Christine
  • et al.
Abstract

Objectives

Abortions are common health experiences in the United States, yet they are siloed from mainstream health care. To provide guidance on how clinicians could break down these silos, normalize conversations about abortion, and potentially improve patient experience and contraceptive decision-making, we sought to understand patient attitudes regarding discussing abortion during contraceptive counseling.

Study design

In 2018, we completed in-depth semi-structured interviews with reproductive-aged women recruited from primary care clinics of two politically disparate regions within California. We elicited acceptability, preferences, and implications of clinicians mentioning abortion during contraceptive counseling. Using directed content analysis, we coded transcripts for inductive and deductive themes.

Results

We achieved thematic saturation after 49 interviews. Interviewees were diverse in reproductive history, race/ethnicity, religiosity, and abortion attitudes. Participants with diverse attitudes about abortion reported that having abortion mentioned during contraceptive counseling was generally viewed as acceptable, and even helpful, when delivered in a non-directive manner focused on information provision. For some patients, mentioning abortion may reduce abortion stigma and help contraceptive decision-making. Careful attention to a non-judgmental communication style is critical to safeguard against potential contraceptive coercion.

Conclusions

Discussing abortion during contraceptive counseling was acceptable among this diverse population, and our findings suggest ways to best structure such counseling. Coupled with research on clinician perspectives, our findings can inform development of patient-centered contraceptive counseling approaches that integrate abortion in an attempt to facilitate patient care and reduce stigma.

Implications

Mentioning abortion during contraceptive counseling can be acceptable, and even helpful, to patients when delivered in a non-directive manner focused on information provision, even among patients who believed abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. For some patients, mentioning abortion may reduce abortion stigma and help contraceptive decision-making.

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