Academic review finds nurses and midwives involved in abortion experience “stress, frustration, anger, grief”

By Right to Life UK

A new academic review of nurses and midwives involved in providing surgical abortions has found that they feel “stress, anger, grief”, require “moral support” and have to adopt “coping strategies” to deal with their work.

Researchers from Zhejiang University and Ninghai Maternal and Child Health Hospital in China published a review in April this year which details the emotional strains that many nurses and midwives involved in providing abortions experience.

“Stress, frustration, anger and grief”

The review found that nurses and midwives experienced “stress, frustration, anger, grief, and stigma, which were caused by their role in abortion care, guilt for aborting foetuses or incomprehension of women’s abortion decisions”.

One interviewee said:

“It was difficult for me to change my feelings…I assisted with the induced abortion…I cared for the crying woman and aborted foetus. I took the day to grieve and became depressed…and soon after, I assisted with childbirth…I couldn’t truly feel happy, and it was difficult for me to say ‘Congratulations on your newborn baby’ to the mother and family”.

Others needed “moral support… just so you are not alone with the foetus … or alone with [the mother]”.

“I chose this job to help to create life, not to participate in care involving the termination of pregnancy”

The review also found that nurses and midwives employed a number of coping strategies “for dealing with their emotions and conflicts during provision of abortion care”, such as redefining their role and “emotional isolation”. This involved “keeping silent, concealing emotions and not sharing feelings”. Some “escaped from emotional distress by praying or chanting”.

An unnamed interviewee said:

“The very first time I thought, I chose this job to help to create life, not to participate in care involving the termination of pregnancy… what is my obligation?. But now I (have) changed my view”.

Another explained:

“It is difficult for us to provide all women with a good environment because…a woman who gave birth to a boy was very happy to have the baby with her family in the delivery room, but in the next room was a woman who terminated her pregnancy and could hear the laughter from the adjacent room; she grieved so much”.

How should nurses and midwives treat the body of an aborted baby?

The review also found that nurses and midwives were unsure how they should treat the body of the baby whose life they had just helped to end, and how they should assist the baby’s often grieving mother. “[S]ome nurses treated the aborted foetus like a normally birthed child and showed their respect for the foetus’s body”.

One interviewee reported:

“I was shocked! I didn’t know what to do so I called the doctor and asked him what to do. He simply said ‘drop it in the saline solution’. There was no way I was going to do that. These babies are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and caring”.

The review itself in its conclusions recommends “asking the affected women’s willingness of hand and footprints from the foetus or holding the aborted foetus might be helpful and convenient strategies for the grieving process”.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “The contradictions and mental gymnastics of these nurses and midwives is as shocking as it is sad. As a number of them rightly point out, on the one hand, they are bringing new life into the world at one end of the corridor, and at the other, they are assisting in the ending of it. No wonder they have to come up with various “coping strategies”.

“Of course, if the unborn child was nothing other than a clump of cells, there should be no conflict. The very fact that these nurses and midwives experience such emotional turmoil whilst assisting in abortions is an indication of the moral importance of life in the womb. These nurses and midwives recognise, at least at some level, that this life is valuable and that through abortion, they are facilitating the loss of something truly precious”.