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‘Abortion’ or ‘termination of pregnancy’? Views from abortion care providers in Scotland, UK
  1. Aine Kavanagh1,
  2. Sally Wielding2,
  3. Rosemary Cochrane2,
  4. Judith Sim1,
  5. Anne Johnstone2,3,
  6. Sharon Cameron2,3
  1. 1 Deanery of Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2 Chalmers Centre, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3 Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Aine Kavanagh, Deanery of Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9YL, UK; aine.kavanagh{at}


Background The phrase ‘termination of pregnancy’ has recently been adopted by a number of British medical institutions as a preferred descriptor of induced abortion. How it is used by abortion care providers is unclear, although the ongoing stigmatisation of abortion may play a role.

Methods A mixed methods study of the views of abortion care providers in Scotland, UK. Self-administered anonymous questionnaires were distributed to abortion care providers at a national conference (Scottish Abortion Care Providers). The main outcomes measured were the proportion of respondents reporting that they found the terms ‘abortion’ and ‘termination of pregnancy’ to be distressing, and their preferred terminology for use in consultations with women. In-depth interviews were conducted with 19 providers from a single clinic in Scotland to contextualise use of the terminology.

Results The questionnaire was completed by 90/118 delegates (76%). More respondents indicated they found the term ‘abortion’ distressing (28%), compared with those who found ‘termination of pregnancy’ distressing (6%; P<0.0001). Interview participants reported that ‘termination of pregnancy’ was the default phrase used in consultations. Some respondents stated that they occasionally purposely used ‘abortion’ in consultations to emphasise the seriousness of the procedure (morally, physically and/or emotionally).

Conclusions ‘Termination of pregnancy’ is the most commonly used term to describe induced abortion in patient consultations in Scotland. This and the term ‘abortion’ appear to play different roles, with the former being used euphemistically, and the latter as a more emphatic term. Further research is warranted to investigate how this interacts with patient care, service provision, and abortion stigma.

  • termination of pregnancy
  • induced abortion
  • terminology
  • organization and administration
  • stigma

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  • Contributors SC planned the study and designed the survey with AJ and RC. SC and JS supervised AK who conducted and analysed the interviews. SW conducted the survey and analysed the results. All the authors reviewed and approved the manuscript.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Additional unpublished data from this study are unavailable, as this may identify participants.

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