With abortion remaining legal in over half of the country and a proliferation of websites offering information on how to access abortion medications, ending an unwanted early-stage pregnancy remains surprisingly easy. That is, easy for those who know where to look. But not all patients have equal access to reliable information. This Article addresses the urgent downstream harms caused by the lack of access to abortion information, particularly among the most vulnerable Americans, and argues that, in view of these consequences, regardless of abortion’s legal status, clinicians have a duty to provide their patients with abortion information.
We begin with an overview of the findings from interviews with 25 doctors practicing medicine in a state where abortion is criminalized – findings that revealed considerable hesitation to share abortion information. We then examine clinicians’ ethical and professional obligations in the context of providing abortion information, showing how the provision of abortion information is central to sound ethical and clinical practice. Following this analysis, we consider the question of whether these duties shift where abortion is criminalized. First, we explore the risks for clinicians who share abortion information, identifying and evaluating the potential criminal and civil consequences that might follow from providing a patient with accurate abortion information. We then explain how and why professional societies should act to minimize harm to patients and clinicians through clear statements about clinicians’ duty to share health information with patients regardless of the state in which a patient resides. We conclude that, regardless of the legal status of abortion, clinicians have a professional responsibility to share with their patients’ basic abortion information – including treatment options and how to access those options.
Michelle Oberman and Lisa Soleymani Lehmann,
Doctors’ Duty to Provide Abortion Information
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/facpubs/1013