Abortion: Nursing and Its Ethical Issues

Table of Contents


The world of nursing is faced with a lot of challenges that keep on emerging every day. Some of these challenges subject nurses to ethical and professional dilemmas. Nursing practices that raise ethical dilemmas require caution since the professionalism of the nurses is put into question. For many years, abortion, euthanasia, and quality of life have been some of the most contentious practices to have faced nursing. In such ethical situations, the welfare of both nurses and patients is at stake. It is essential to note there is no existing solution to an ethical dilemma. Nursing discretion and professionalism matter in such scenarios. The situation that poses a dilemma is known to give rise to ethical and legal implications. There are cases where nursing licenses are revoked, and disciplinary actions are taken against nurses who do not handle ethical dilemmas with professionalism. It is essential to understand that ethics assesses the morality of a certain decision. However, much depends on an individual’s personal beliefs, level of professionalism, and scope of responsibility. Abortion is one of the most debatable practices in the history of nursing. In essence, abortion has raised ethical issues concerning whether the action should be practiced by nurses. This issue attracts a great debate among people who are pro-life and those who accept abortion by choice. The following research paper discusses the issue of abortion and its context in nursing. In addition, the research paper discusses how nurses should approach abortion situations for legal and professional ethics.


Clinically, abortion is defined as the termination of a growing fetus or embryo inside the uterus. The termination of pregnancy can result from miscarriage and not necessarily through inducing. Nevertheless, most people consider inducing a pregnancy as the formal definition of an abortion.

Abortion in the context of nursing

It is essential to acknowledge the fact that abortion is considered a clinical procedure. The safety of pregnant women while faced with the risk of a pregnancy is a priority for nurses (McLemore & Levi, 2011). The safety and well-being of a woman are given priority before the birth takes place. In this respect, a procedure that ensures a pregnant woman is safe, and healthy may require termination of a pregnancy. Acting with respect to safeguarding life is the core principle of nursing (McLemore & Levi, 2011). Nurses are not required to induce abortion but only assist in abortion services. In other words, nurses are only perceived as participants and care providers to abort patients. Sometimes, it is difficult to outline the responsibilities of a nurse during abortion procedures. However, this depends on the method of abortion administered. However, general care procedures done before an abortion are considered the major roles of a nurse during an abortion. An example of such roles includes the general health screening of pregnant women (McLemore & Levi, 2011). According to McLemore & Levi (2011), it is also the mandate of the nurse to provide counseling and patient education to pregnant women. In this respect, a nurse is expected to educate the aborting women on the procedures and options involved in abortion. From this perspective, the aborting women have the needed information that is critical in decision making. Another important responsibility of a nurse during abortions is the processing of required paperwork and forms. It is also upon the nurse to ensure that the aborting patient is under the required medication prescribed by a physician.

From both legal and professional points of view, the nurses are required to monitor a patient’s fatal signs during abortion (McLemore & Levi, 2011). These signs include bleeding, reaction to the medication, and also extreme signs of overwhelming pain. Nurses are also required to assist the physician during the abortion procedure by arranging the necessary equipment. It is also important for the nurse to ensure that potential emergencies emanating from the abortion are detected and properly managed. The nurse also must ensure the disposal of the aborted fetus is properly disposed of without causing a hazard. The disposal of the fetus is a rigorous procedure, which ensures that the dignity of the unborn child is addressed. For example, the aborted fetus is cleaned, dressed up, and put into a receptacle.

The physical and psychological health of a woman who has just aborted is a concern of the nurses (McLemore & Levi, 2011). In order to ensure that such is addressed appropriately, the nurses are required to develop a patient-nurses relationship that is supportive and empowering. Moreover, the nurses ensure that there is a liaison between the patient and other support groups such as physicians, families, and social workers.

It is a legal requirement that nurses who take part in abortion be knowledgeable in both anatomy and physiology. This is important in ensuring that the nurse provides both physical and psychological care to the patient. Another body of knowledge that nurses are legally obligated to be familiar with is abortifacient and surgical procedures. In addition, a nurse taking part in abortion should be conversant with analgesic pharmacology and psychological care processes. It is a legal obligation of the nurse to ensure that the quality of health care provided during an abortion is maintained.

Each country has its own legalities concerning the issue of abortion. However, there exist international nursing standards concerning abortion that must be observed. For example, it is a legal obligation that a nurse who takes part in an abortion process be a registered and qualified practitioner (Cappiello, Beal & Hudson, 2011).

It is essential that before a clinical abortion is induced, at least two medical practitioners are to have an agreement on the same (Cappiello, Beal & Hudson, 2011). In this respect, nurses are required to take part in abortion when an opinion of a fellow medical practitioner or physician deems it necessary that the abortion be conducted. However, such consensus should be done in good faith and for the benefit of the pregnant woman.

There are scenarios where abortion is legally allowed. An example of such a situations is when the pregnancy poses a potential mental or physical danger to the pregnant woman. In such a scenario, an abortion is the only potential intervention to prevent such fatalities to the pregnant woman. Abortion is also allowed if the continuance of the pregnancy poses potential dangers to both the pregnant woman and the unborn child. There are instances where the health of the child to be born is deemed to be abnormal. For example, the child would be disabled or have psychical and mental abnormalities. In such scenarios, abortion is legally allowed in most countries.

In a situation where abortion must be conducted, nurses are protected by a conscientious objection legal provision to refuse taking part in the procedure (Cappiello, Beal & Hudson, 2011). This is often allowed when the nurse’s personal beliefs and morality do not permit taking part in such procedures. However, the same legal provision obligates nurses to take part in abortion procedures, if an emergency situation arises from the procedure and saving life becomes imminent.

Ethical considerations

Nurses are always faced with an ethical dilemma when abortion provides a pro-choice and pro-life dilemma (Gallagher, Porock & Edgley, 2010). In such a situation, the nurse is faced with difficulties keeping up with personal beliefs. It is important to note that some nurses are pro-life and consider abortion murder. Nevertheless, such a situation obligates the nurse to take the moral duty of ensuring that the general health of the patient is addressed before and after abortion. In a situation, where the life of the pregnant is endangered by the pregnancy, it is ethical and morally upright to save the life of the pregnant woman (Gallagher, Porock & Edgley, 2010).

Another ethical obligation for nurses is to abide by the ethics of disclosure (Gallagher, Porock & Edgley, 2010). Such ethical obligation is legally abiding in the profession of nursing. The nurse is expected to be truthful amid the underlying medical situation. A situation that requires disclosure is when the pregnant woman and relevant family relations require understanding the dangers of abortion or existing pregnancy. It is the right of the patient and immediate family members to know the medical situation of the pregnancy (Gallagher, Porock & Edgley, 2010). Another situation that raises a dilemma for a nurse during an abortion is freedom of choice. It is important for a nurse to respect the choice of a woman who wants to do an abortion. However, the law indicates that it is the duty of nurses to ensure that patient’s choice does not lead to more severe harm. For example, a nurse may educate the patient on the importance of saving the unborn child. This is important when the abortion may cause further health complications.


Cappiello, J., Beal, W., M & Hudson, G., K. (2011). Applying ethical practice competencies to the prevention and management of unintended pregnancy. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 40(6): 808-816.

Gallagher, K., Porock, D & Edgley, A. (2010). The concept of nursing in the abortion services. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 66(4): 849-857.

McLemore, M & Levi, A. (2011). Nurses and care of women seeking abortions, 1971 to 2011. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 40(6): 672-677.

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