Sivia de Sordo

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    Abortion stigma, conscientious objection and women’s rights: a qualitative study

    on health professionals’ attitudes toward abortion in two public maternity hospitals

    in Salvador da Bahia

    Sylvia de Sordo, Brasil

    In this presentation I will discuss some key findings of my qualitative study on health professionals’ attitudes toward legal and illegal abortion in Salvador da Bahia (Brazil). Through this study I investigated the impact of the Brazilian scientific and political debate on abortion and maternal morbidity and mortality and the resulting expansion of legal abortion services, on physicians’ attitudes toward both legal and illegal abortion.

    This study was carried out through participant observation, short questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with obstetricians-gynecologists and other health professionals working in two public maternity hospitals of Salvador da Bahia. The first one is located in one of the outlying urban areas where the highest rates of maternal mortality are found. This hospital doesn’t have any legal abortion service, while the second one, which is located in a middle class neighborhood, is the only Hospital which offers a legal abortion service in Salvador, one of the leading cities in terms of maternal mortality-morbidity due to unsafe abortions.

    One of the main objectives of this study was to examine if the increasing establishment of legal abortion services influenced physicians’ attitudes toward abortion, toward women who have them illegally or ask to have legal abortions, as well as toward the law. Another objective was to evaluate which characteristics - socio-demographic, religiosity, professional experience, knowledge (of abortion and epidemiology of maternal morbidity and mortality, of the Brazilian Law regarding abortion) - influence physicians’ attitudes toward both legal and illegal abortion and how. The Brazilian Ministry of Health and FEBRASGO (Brazilian Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics) are interested in promoting the establishment and expansion of legal abortion services in public maternity hospitals. My study will therefore provide new data which will have immediate relevance, both from a scientific point of view, and from a policy point of view.