142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Responses to the threat of fake patients among U.S. abortion providers

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Monday, November 17, 2014 : 3:15 PM - 3:30 PM

Emily J. Youatt, MPH , Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI
Lisa Martin, PhD , Women's and Gender Studies Program/Health Policy Studies Program, University of Michigan, Dearborn, Dearborn, MI
Michelle Debbink , Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Jane Hassinger, MSW, LCSW , Women's Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Lisa Harris, MD, PhD , Obstetrics and Gynecology and Women's Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Background: U.S. abortion clinics are targets of coordinated, anti-choice “sting” operations, in which fake patients attempt to expose improper patient counseling. The effects of this threat on abortion providers are unknown.

Methods: We analyzed data from an online survey of 311 abortion providers at 22 abortion care centers nationwide. We examined their responses to the threat of sting operations, using ANOVA to compare workers in states with/without such attempts. 

Results: Though only 39% of those surveyed work in states where stings occurred, 48% fear being targeted by a sting, and 58% suspect they had encountered a fake patient. Nevertheless 93% report that they know what to do if faced with this situation. Compared to those in states without sting attempts, providers in states with sting attempts were more afraid of being targeted (p<0.01); more suspicious of encountering a fake patient (p<0.05); and less confident that they knew how to respond to fake patients (p<0.05). 

Discussion: The threat of sting operations is pervasive among abortion providers, introducing a new stress to an already burdened workforce. Beliefs about encountering fake patients appear out of proportion to the risk of having such an encounter, which may negatively influence patient-provider relationships. Most providers feel confident about responding to stings; however, those in states where stings occurred may face higher threats to morale and need additional support.  Future research should address not only the impact of sting attempts on workers, but their potential to burden patients by introducing suspicion into therapeutic clinical relationships.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe U.S. abortion providers concerns and responses to the threat of sting operations. Compare providers' responses to stings based on whether or not the provider resides in a state where a sting operation has occurred.

Keyword(s): Abortion, Women's Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a public health doctoral candidate who has been studying abortion stigma for the past four years. Understanding the experiences of the abortion providing workforce is a special interest of mine.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 3386.0: Abortion in the US