Study Finds Abortion Providers Carefully Follow Medical Guidelines

Two new studies published in the journal Contraception have found that the vast majority of abortion providers carefully follow evidence-based guidelines when performing first- and second-trimester abortions. “These findings may explain why these procedures have such a phenomenal safety record,” said Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy Professor Heidi Jones, who co-authored the studies.

Jones and her team surveyed 383 abortion facilities in the U.S. and found that providers largely followed evidence-based guidelines. Doctors performing abortions may have extra incentive to do so because of the political and litigious environment in which they work. “The reason that we undertook the studies is to understand what practice looks like for abortion procedures in the U.S. and Canada, and the extent to which providers are following guidelines and evidence-based medicine,” Jones said.

Despite the safety record of legal abortions, many states have restrictive laws and regulations surrounding the procedure, and these laws are often put forth as being necessary for safety reasons. “Politically people portray it as not a safe procedure, and that it’s necessary to install laws that are supposed to protect women,” said Jones, adding, “The laws have nothing to do with ensuring patient safety.”

The study did identify a few areas, such as pain management and cervical preparation techniques, where doctors practiced with some inconsistency. “That’s because we haven’t established what are the best modalities,” said Jones, who called for more research into these areas.

The takeaway from her research is that evidence-based guidelines have been established and clinicians are following them closely. “It’s important to emphasize how safe these procedures are. Serious poor outcomes are incredibly rare,” said Jones.

Abortion is considered a safe medical procedure because it results in few deaths and complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, for 2013, four deaths out of 664,435 abortions with a case fatality rate of less than one (0.62) death per 100,000 abortions from 2008-2013. To put this in perspective, in 2013 in the US, there were an estimated 17.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Nearly 24 percent of women in the U.S. have an abortion by age 45.

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Explore This Work
“Second-trimester surgical abortion practices in the United States”
“First-trimester aspiration abortion practices: a survey of United States abortion providers”

Work By
Heidi Jones (Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics) | Profile 1

Colleges and Schools
Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy

Bonus Content
“CUNY Researcher Surveys Clinical Abortion Practices for Quality” (CUNY SPH News)

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