Abortion can be hard for the patient. But it can also cause turmoil for the doctor performing the procedure.
Janet Singer, a nurse midwife on the faculty of Brown University’s obstetrics-gynecology residency program, found herself acting as a confidant in many discussions with residents about abortion.
“Over the years, when a resident felt confused, overwhelmed or thrilled about something to do with abortion care, they often came to me to discuss it,” she says.
Tricky questions continued to arise: Where does life actually begin? How do doctors’ personal beliefs play out in their clinical care? And, what’s really best for mothers?
Singer thought the general public would benefit from hearing more about the complexities of the young doctors’ experiences. So she asked four residents to write about their feelings about abortion training and services, or as one resident characterized it: “one of the most life-changing interventions we can offer.”
These personal stories are published in the July issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, headlined: “Four Residents’ Narratives on Abortion Training: A Residency Climate of Reflection, Support, and Mutual Respect.”
I asked Singer to offer a bit more background on the project, and here, edited, is her response, followed by some excerpts from the residents’ narratives:
Janet Singer: The abortion debate in the U.S. is so divisive, making everything seem black and white; but the real life experiences of doctors and women are much more complex. I am a nurse midwife and though personally committed to increasing access to abortion services, I believe that abortion is not a black and white issue. I speak openly about my personal beliefs with the obstetric residents I work with.
My thinking about the grey areas surrounding abortion care are the result of many conversations with colleagues and residents. One came to me overwhelmed on a day when she had done a late-term abortion and then been called to an emergency C-section for a fetus/baby just a week further along.
She needed to talk about how overwhelming it felt to try to decide where the cusp of life was, why it was OK to take one fetus/baby out of the womb so it wouldn’t live and one out so it might. Continue reading