September 7, 2012 — Midwives, nurse practitioners and physician assistants can perform abortions just as safely as doctors, according to a review in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Reuters reports.
The researchers analyzed five studies of nearly 9,000 women that compared first-trimester abortion complications and side effects based on who performed the procedure. In facilities in Asia, Africa and the U.S., outcomes were similar whether abortion care was provided by non-physicians or physicians, the review found.
For example, one study of 1,400 women in Vermont or New Hampshire found that there were complications in 2.2% of abortion procedures performed by a physician assistant and 2.3% of procedures performed by a doctor, according to the review.
Amy Levi -- a professor of midwifery at the University of New Mexico, who was not involved in the study -- said allowing non-physicians to perform abortions could allow women to access abortion care earlier in pregnancy. Expanding the pool of non-physician providers is especially "vital" given the increasing number of abortion restrictions, she added. Currently, 39 states require licensed physicians to perform abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Levi noted that non-physician care also could be beneficial in developing countries, where non-physicians outnumber doctors and unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal death (Pittman, Reuters, 8/30).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership