Doctors’ Duty to Provide Abortion Information

10 J Law & Biosciences 2023 (forthcoming)

42 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2023 Last revised: 12 Jul 2023

See all articles by Michelle Oberman

Michelle Oberman

Santa Clara University - School of Law

Lisa Soleymani Lehmann

Harvard University - Brigham and Women's Hospital

Date Written: June 30, 2023

Abstract

With abortion remaining legal in over half of the country and a proliferation of websites offering information on how to access abortion medications, for those who know where to look, there are sound options for safely ending an unwanted early-stage pregnancy. 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.

Note:
Funding Information: Research was funded by Santa Clara University School of Law (Summer Research Grant, 2022).

Conflict of Interests: The authors have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval: Human Subjects Research for this article was approved by Santa Clara University’s Institutional Review Board, IRB protocol 22-04-1768.

Keywords: Abortion, bioethics, doctor-patient relationship, women's health

Suggested Citation

Oberman, Michelle and Soleymani Lehmann, Lisa, Doctors’ Duty to Provide Abortion Information (June 30, 2023). 10 J Law & Biosciences 2023 (forthcoming), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4430194 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4430194

Michelle Oberman (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University - School of Law ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States

Lisa Soleymani Lehmann

Harvard University - Brigham and Women's Hospital ( email )

75 Francis St.
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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