Abortion has always been a controversial issue, dividing both the caregivers and the general public into two distinctive categories: pro-life and pro-choice. The U.S. has many abortion laws and limitations; furthermore, the procedure is widely frowned-upon in American society. Women who decide to undergo the procedure want it to remain confidential and to receive quality care from medical practitioners without being judged. In contrast, some caregivers may experience an ethical dilemma whenever required to assist with abortions, which can cause inner conflict between their individual views and nursing duties, thus affecting the treatment quality.
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Legal rights of the patients with regards to abortion correspond to the basic ethical principles, such as the rights to be informed, to maintain personal privacy, to receive high-quality health care, and to make free choices about abortion: “It is obvious that a pregnant woman has rights, including an unconditional right to control what happens to her body” (Chervenak, McCullough and Brent, 2011, p. 315.e2). The right to information rests on the principle that a woman is entitled to receive full information about the procedure and her health (Chervenak et al.), as well as to have access to information regarding qualifications and license of the medical practitioner (Pregnancy Resource Center, 2016, para. 1).
Due to the sensitive nature of the issue, it is also important to protect the woman’s privacy rights and ensure the confidentiality of all disclosed information and the procedure itself. Finally, each woman has the right to be treated properly by the medical practitioners, receive high-quality care, and be transported to emergency care institutions should there be any complications during the procedure (Pregnancy Resource Center, 2016, para. 1).
Abortion Nursing Care
However, women undergoing abortions are not the only ones experiencing ethical dilemmas regarding the procedure. Fant (2012) explores the ethical implications and concerns experienced by nurses who assist with abortions and care about females who undergo the procedure. These ethical concerns are “shaped by the values, beliefs, and experiences of the nurse” (Fant, 2012, para. 3) and affect the provision of care by the nurse in one way or the other.
One of the fundamental dilemmas that Fant addresses is pro-life versus pro-choice, a conflict particularly relevant in abortion and euthanasia practices. A nurse who is pro-life will either deny participating in abortion cases altogether or, if forced to take part, could experience difficulties with being empathic and caring. Fant (2012) also discusses other dilemmas, such as control versus free will: for instance, if abortion could have grave consequences on the patient’s health, but the patient wants to proceed, it is unclear whether or not the nurse should have a say on the case (para. 7). Disclosure of health conditions is another ethical issue (Fant, 2012, para. 8).
However, as this problem generally arises out of the family’s desire to keep some information secret from the patient, it has fewer applications to the confidential and private cases of abortion.
Overall, abortion is a complicated issue, in which moral views and values of different parties often collide. This could cause many problems both for the patients and for the nurses, which is why it is important to respect the will of both sides and to develop an effective controlling procedure that would ensure fulfillment of the patient’s rights, as well as the possibility for nurses to choose whether or not to take part in abortion cases, depending on their stand in the pro-life versus pro-choice conflict.
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Chervenak, F. A., McCullough, L. B., & Brent, R. L. (2011). The professional responsibility model of obstetrical ethics: avoiding the perils of clashing rights. American Journal of Obstetrics, 205(4), 315.e1–315.e5.
Fant, C. (2012). Major ethical dilemmas in nursing. Nurse Together.
Pregnancy Resource Center (2016). Legal rights for women seeking abortion. Pregnancy Resource Center.