The Space in the Middle: Attitudes of Women's Health and Neonatal Nurses in the United States about Abortion

Womens Health Issues. 2022 Mar-Apr;32(2):130-139. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2021.10.011. Epub 2021 Nov 26.


Introduction: Despite playing an integral part in sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion care, nurses are rarely the focus of research regarding their attitudes about abortion.

Methods: A sample of 1,820 nurse members of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses were surveyed about their demographic and professional backgrounds, religious beliefs, and abortion attitudes. Scores on the Abortion Attitudes Scale were analyzed categorically and trichotomized in multinomial regression analyses.

Results: Almost one-third of the sample (32%) had moderately proabortion attitudes, 29% were unsure, 16% had strongly proabortion attitudes, 13% had strongly antiabortion attitudes, and 11% had moderately antiabortion attitudes. Using trichotomized Abortion Attitudes Scale scores (proabortion, unsure, antiabortion), adjusted regression models showed that the following characteristics were associated with proabortion attitudes: being non-Christian, residence in the North or West, having no children, and having had an abortion.

Conclusions: Understanding nurses' attitudes toward abortion, and what characteristics may influence their attitudes, is critical to sustaining nursing care for patients considering and seeking abortion. Additionally, because personal characteristics were associated with antiabortion attitudes, it is likely that personal experiences may influence attitudes toward abortion. A large percentage of nurses held attitudes that placed them in the "unsure" category. Given the current ubiquitous polarization of abortion discourse, this finding indicates that the binary narrative of this topic is less pervasive than expected, which lends itself to an emphasis on empathetic and compassionate nursing care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Attitude
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nurses, Neonatal*
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive Health
  • United States
  • Women's Health