Elective Abortion and Nursing

Within the discipline of professional nursing, nurses are divided when it comes to their opinions concerning elective abortion. Just as there are pro-life and pro-choice supporters in the general population, there pro-life nurses and pro-choice nurses, some of whom feel very strongly about their beliefs. Because a nurse has an ethical responsibility to care for patients in need, it is important to address the issue of whether nurses are obligated to care for patients who undergo elective abortion surgery.

2008 study by Wilson and Haynie (2008) examined the basic social processes experienced by women who sought recovery assistance following an elective abortion. The researchers felt that nursing research on this topic was importance because abortion is reported to be the second most common surgery performed in the United States.

The study (Wilson and Haynie, 2008) revealed that the majority of these women suffered in silence because they were afraid that others would judge them. Thus, the researchers argued, nurses have many opportunities to provide recovery assistance following an elective abortion, in all clinical settings. In order to better facilitate this process, the researchers felt that nurses understand the experience of women as they recognize the negative outcomes and seek recovery assistance.

Williams confirmed that nurses must provide caring assistance to patients who undergo elective abortion surgery. According to Williams (2001): "Women with a history of elective abortion experienced grief in terms of loss of control, death anxiety, and dependency. Although there were no statistically significant differences in the intensity of grief in women who had a history of elective abortion and the comparison group, there was an overall trend toward higher grief intensities in the abortion group. Presence of living children, perceived pressure to have the abortion, and the number of abortions appear to affect the intensity of the short-term grief response."

Because many women experience very strong emotional distress during and following their abortion experience, it is important the nurses who assist in abortions provide care and empathy, regardless of their own personal beliefs and ethics (Wilson and Haynie, 2008). All of the study's participants described significant negative changes in personal behaviors after their experiences.

Nursing organizations across the country agree that providing care to abortion patients is a critical aspect of nursing. However, various statements call out that a nurse has the right to whatever opinion she holds and that it is up to each individual nurse to decide if they do not want to work in a place the performs abortions. For example, the New York State Nurses Association Position Statement on Abortion (2008) was created in response to legislative activity concerning abortion law, as well as requests from the professional nursing community. Nurses had requested clarity in regard to their rights and responsibilities and the rights of their patients who underwent elective abortions.

According to the New York State Nurses Association recognizes that abortion is a controversial issue, in which nurses and patients are in the center of. The association holds that both the nurse and the patient have individual rights that are clearly supported in the ANA Code for Nurses with Interpretive Statements (2001). According to the association: "The registered professional nurse has professional obligations that must be maintained while providing care to women who choose to have abortions. Additionally, New York Civil Rights Law provides that 'no person who refuses in writing on the basis of conscience or religious beliefs may be required to perform or assist in an abortion.'"

New York State law, like laws in many other states,…