The role of healthcare providers in expanding legal abortion: Qualitative insights from Argentina, Ireland, and South Korea

Lisa Juanola van Keizerswaard, Irene de Vries, Nicole Moran, Saskia Poorter, Maryse Kok, Nina Zamberlin, Sunhye Kim, Mary Favier, Wendy Chavkin

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1 Scopus citations


Abortion laws are key in creating an enabling environment that facilitates the advancement of people's sexual and reproductive health and rights. Around 50 countries have liberalized their abortion laws in the last decades by adding new grounds allowing abortion. The road toward the expansion of legal abortion is a long, highly sensitive, and difficult process. The specific role of healthcare providers in influencing abortion law reforms has been scarcely studied. With the objective to better understand their (potential) roles, a qualitative study was conducted in 2021 focusing on three countries that had recently liberalized their abortion regulations: Argentina, South Korea, and Ireland. For each country, key informant interviews were conducted with actors in advocacy for legal change, the majority with healthcare providers. The study results indicate that healthcare providers can contribute to the expansion of legal abortion through their influence on public and legal debates. Healthcare providers were found to be scientifically credible and trustworthy. Their voice and argumentation counteracted anti-rights arguments and addressed information gaps, by providing specific clinical experiences and medical information. Healthcare providers amplified women's experiences through their testimonies and had entry points within governmental bodies, which facilitated their advocacy. These healthcare providers often functioned as individual operating obstetrician/gynecologists or general practitioners who were engaged in networks of health professionals or had previous advocacy experience. In a global context of social and political contention around abortion, extending the engagement of healthcare providers in law and policy deliberation on abortion appears to be useful. This requires recognizing the diversity of roles that healthcare providers can take up, creating a safe environment in which they can operate, equipping them with skills that go beyond the medical expert role and facilitating strategic partnerships that seek complementarity between multiple stakeholders, building on the uniqueness of each stakeholder's expertise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.


  • Argentina
  • Ireland
  • South Korea
  • abortion law reform
  • abortion rights
  • advocacy
  • healthcare providers


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