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BACKGROUND: There is a global shortage of health providers in abortion care. Public discourse presents abortion providers as dangerous and greedy and links 'conscience' with refusal to participate. This may discourage provision. A scoping review of empirical evidence is needed to inform public perceptions of the reasons that health providers participate in abortion. OBJECTIVE: The study aimed to identify what is known about health providers' reasons for participating in abortion provision. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Studies were eligible if they included health providers' reasons for participating in legal abortion provision. Only empirical studies were eligible for inclusion. SOURCES OF EVIDENCE: We searched the following databases from January 2000 until January 2022: Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System Online, Excerpta Medica Database, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, ScienceDirect and Centre for Agricultural and Biosciences International Abstracts. Grey literature was also searched. METHODS: Dual screening was conducted of both title/abstract and full-text articles. Health providers' reasons for provision were extracted and grouped into preliminary categories based on the existing research. These categories were revised by all authors until they sufficiently reflected the extracted data. RESULTS: From 3251 records retrieved, 68 studies were included. In descending order, reasons for participating in abortion were as follows: supporting women's choices and advocating for women's rights (76%); being professionally committed to participating in abortion (50%); aligning with personal, religious or moral values (39%); finding provision satisfying and important (33%); being influenced by workplace exposure or support (19%); responding to the community needs for abortion services (14%) and participating for practical and lifestyle reasons (8%). CONCLUSION: Abortion providers participated in abortion for a range of reasons. Reasons were mainly focused on supporting women's choices and rights; providing professional health care; and providing services that aligned with the provider's own personal, religious or moral values. The findings provided no evidence to support negative portrayals of abortion providers present in public discourse. Like conscientious objectors, abortion providers can also be motivated by conscience.

Original publication




Journal article


Womens Health (Lond)

Publication Date





abortion, conscientious objection, midwives, nurses, obstetrics and gynaecology, physicians, termination of pregnancy, Pregnancy, Female, Humans, Attitude of Health Personnel, Abortion, Induced, Conscience, Health Facilities