Abortion in a restrictive legal context: the views of obstetrician-gynaecologists in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Mónica Gogna, Mariana Romero, Silvina Ramos, Mónica Petracci, Dalia Szulik
Reproductive Health Matters 2002, 10 (19): 128-37
In Argentina, unsafe abortions are the primary cause of maternal mortality, accounting for 32% of maternal deaths. During reform of the National Constitution in 1994, the women's movement effectively resisted the reactionary government/church position on abortion. Health professionals, including obstetrician-gynaecologists, played conflicting roles in this debate. This article presents results from a study carried out in 1998-1999 of the views of 467 obstetrician-gynaecologists from public hospitals in Buenos Aires and its Metropolitan Area, focus group discussions with 60 of them, and interviews with heads of department from 36 of the hospitals. The great majority believed abortion was a serious public health issue; that physicians should provide abortions which are not illegal; that abortion should not be penalized to save the woman's life, or in cases of rape or fetal malformations; and that women having illegal abortions and abortion providers should not be imprisoned. Some 40% thought abortion should not be penalized if it is a woman's autonomous decision. Those who were better disposed towards the de-penalization of abortion cited a combination of public health reasons and the need for social equity. The women's health and rights movement should do advocacy work with this professional community on women's needs and rights, given the prominent role they play in reproductive health care provision and in the public sphere.

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