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Title: Physicians of Conscience: A Narrative Inquiry with Canadian Abortion Providers
Author: Shaw, Jessica
Advisor: Estefan, Andrew
Barlow, Constance
Keywords: Social Work;WomenÕs Studies;Medicine and Surgery
Issue Date: 22-Apr-2015
Abstract: The landscape of abortion provision in Canada is complex and features many competing stories. Despite the fact that abortion has been fully decriminalized in Canada since 1988, debates about the morality of abortion continue. Within the abortion literature and scholarship, the perspectives of abortion providers are rarely presented. This study is a narrative inquiry that explored, in depth, the experiences of four physicians who provide abortion care in Canada. Narrative inquiry proceeds from an ontological commitment to experience, making it a useful means to deeply explore the experiences of abortion providers. In this inquiry, stories of abortion provision were lived and told alongside stories of being a mother, a daughter, a friend, a partner, and a woman. Four narrative accounts in this dissertation evoke the ways in which the participants composed themselves as abortion providers. Each of these accounts speaks to the complexities, tensions, and possibilities for understanding abortion provision. Although each narrative account is an individual story, the participants’ stories meet each other at key moments, and in ways that enable the weaving of what are termed narrative threads. These threads are moments of conversation between the stories; they are commonalities and resonances that help to consider participants’ narrative accounts in the context of broader conversations about abortion provision. Seven narrative threads are presented in this dissertation. This inquiry argues for abortion as a critical social justice issue that has social work implications, and frames abortion providers as physicians of conscience; as practitioners who think about things with intention, have morality, and act purposefully. At a time when conscientious objection is being used so readily to refuse people the sexual and reproductive health care that they need, it is especially important to use reasons of conscience to affirm the provision of abortion care. The stories in this dissertation can inform both abortion advocates, as well as those who oppose abortion, by introducing new, or at least different, ways of thinking about the experiences of abortion providers. This dissertation concludes with reflections on the process of narrative inquiry and makes recommendations for research and social work policy and practice.
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