Understanding the relationship between provider race and plans to provide abortion

Access to abortion care is limited by many factors, from prohibitions on paying for abortions with federal funding to a shortage of providers. Restrictions on abortion impact all women, but they disproportionately hurt poor and minority women. Physicians from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to serve those populations. While abortion patients are a racially diverse group, we know little about the racial and ethnic makeup of abortion providers.

Knowing how race of providers intersects with abortion practice is an important consideration in diversifying the field of family planning and meeting the needs of underserved patients. New Bixby Center research aims to understand racial differences in ob/gyn residents’ plans to provide abortion care after their residency training.

Researchers looked at surveys from more than 700 residents trained as part of the Ryan Residency Program, which works to integrate abortion training into ob/gyn residency programs. Overall, 57% of residents planned to provide abortion for any indication, and 82% in cases of pregnancy complications. They found that more favorable attitudes toward abortion and religiosity were linked with whether people intended to provide abortion in their post-residency practice. Once those factors were taken into account, race was no longer a significant predictor of whether people planned to provide abortions.

We know little about abortion provider attitudes and race and further study into this area is important to help expand access through a diverse group of abortion providers. These findings indicate that lower intention to provide abortion among Black physicians may be understood in part in the context of religion. However, aspects of identity like religion, race and culture are inextricably linked.

Future studies are needed to gain insights into how the intersection of provider race, religion and other aspects of identity impact participation in training, intention to provide abortion care and future practice. As women of color are impacted by restrictions and lack of access to funding, it’s important for the family planning field to embrace and encourage diversity. Formalized, integrated family planning training with a special focus on religious and moral concerns of residents is an important step in expanding care for patients. Ultimately, we need to increase abortion provider diversity so patients, especially those who are underserved, receive high quality, comprehensive reproductive health care from a diverse group of physicians.