Objective: To determine the opinions and current practice of obstetricians and gynaecologists and trainees in the specialty with regard to induced abortion.
Design, setting and participants: A voluntary, anonymous survey of Australian Fellows and specialist trainees of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists was conducted between 23 June and 31 July 2009 using an email invitation to proceed to an online questionnaire.
Main outcome measures: Attitudes to abortion; self-reported usual practice of induced abortion.
Results: Of 1498 Fellows and trainees invited to complete the questionnaire, 740 (49%) did so. Of these respondents, 632 (85%) stated that they did not hold religious or conscientious views that would make them totally opposed to abortion; 463 of these (73%) reported performing abortion as part of their personal practice, with 204 (44%) doing so only for severe fetal abnormality or serious maternal medical conditions. 108 respondents reported holding views that made them totally opposed to abortion - 60 (56%) opposed it in any situation at all and 48 (44%) opposed it with limited exceptions. Of those opposed, 34 (32%) added comment that they perform abortion for severe fetal abnormality or serious maternal medical conditions, and a further 17 (16%) commented that they refer women requesting abortion in these circumstances to colleagues. Of the respondents not opposed to abortion, 89% supported the availability of induced abortion within the public health system, and half felt that national availability of mifepristone would modify their practice of induced abortion.
Conclusions: There was broad support among responding specialist obstetricians and gynaecologists and trainees for the availability of induced abortion in Australia. This study highlights the difficulties of accurately reporting a wide range of views on a contentious issue.