Lack of providers is a barrier to accessing abortion in Canada. The factors influencing the number of abortion providers are poorly understood. In this study, we assessed the attitudes and intentions of medical students towards abortion training and provision to gain insight into the future supply of abortion providers.
We surveyed first, second, and third year medical students at an Ontario university to determine their intentions to train in and provide abortion services during different stages of training and in future practice. We assessed students' attitudes and intentions towards training in and providing abortions, their perceptions of social support, their perceived ability to receive training in and to provide abortion services, and their attitudes towards the legality of abortion.
Surveys were completed by 337 of 508 potential respondents (66.7%). The responses indicated that the students in the survey held relatively positive attitudes towards the legality and availability of abortion in Canada. Respondents had significantly more positive attitudes towards first trimester medical abortions (and a greater intention to provide them) than towards second trimester surgical abortions. Thirty-five percent of students planned to enter a specialty in which they could perform abortions, but fewer than 30% of these students planned to provide any type of abortion. Intentions to provide abortions were correlated with positive attitudes toward abortion in general and greater perceived social support for abortion provision.
A small proportion of students sampled intended both to enter a specialty in which abortion would be within the scope of practice and to provide abortion services. Lack of perceived social support for providing abortions and the perceived inability to obtain abortion training or to logistically provide abortions were identified as two potentially modifiable barriers to abortion provision. We propose increasing education on abortion provision and creating policies to promote medical abortion as a method of improving access to abortion across Canada.