In 2015, the Georgia (US) legislature implemented a gestational limit, or “ban” on abortion at or beyond 22 weeks from the last menstrual period. In this study, we qualitatively examined abortion provider perspectives on the ban’s impact on abortion care access and provision.
Between May 2018 and September 2019, we conducted in-depth individual interviews with 20 abortion providers (clinicians, staff, and administrators) from four clinics in Georgia. Interviews explored perceptions of and experiences with the ban and its effects on abortion care. Team members coded transcripts to 100% agreement using an iterative, group consensus process, and conducted a thematic analysis.
Participants reported strict adherence to the ban and also its negative consequences: additional labor plus service-delivery restrictions, legally constructed risks for providers, intrusion into the provider-patient relationship, and impact of limited services felt by patients and, thus, providers. Participants commonly mentioned disparities in the ban’s impact and viewed the ban as disproportionately affecting people of color, those experiencing financial insecurity, and those with underlying medical conditions. Nonetheless, participants described a clear, unrelenting commitment to providing quality patient-centered care and dedication to and satisfaction in their work.
Georgia’s ban operates as legislative interference, adversely affecting the provision of quality, patient-centered abortion care, despite providers’ resilience and commitment. These experiences in Georgia have timely and clear implications for the entire country following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, thus reducing care access and increasing negative health and social consequences and inequities for patients and communities on a national scale.
Our findings from Georgia (US) indicate an urgent need for coordinated efforts to challenge the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and for proactive policies that protect access to later abortion care. Research that identifies strategies for supporting providers and patients faced with continuing restrictive legal environments is warranted.