Online Program

A mixed methods investigation of abortion and social work: Opportunities for research and education

Monday, November 2, 2015

Stephanie Begun, PhD Candidate, MSW, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver, Denver, CO

Social work endorses professional values including social justice, self-determination, and providing clients with resource-referrals. While abortion impacts individuals and client systems in numerous ways, a perplexing scarcity of social work research endeavors have examined how the topic of abortion arises in social work practice settings, how social workers are trained for work with clients regarding abortion, and social workers’ abortion attitudes. Utilizing a sequential mixed methods approach, qualitative interviews of marriage and family therapy social workers (N=6) were conducted, which influenced the development of a nationwide quantitative survey that was subsequently administered to social work students (N=504). In both studies, social workers were asked how the topic of abortion presents in practice settings, how abortion is addressed in social work education, and questions regarding their personal beliefs about abortion. Results indicated that the topic of abortion frequently appears in social work practice, while social workers feel highly unprepared for such situations, noting limited knowledge of available abortion resources and related policies. While most social workers self-identified as pro-choice, numerous social workers responded that adherence to their own personal beliefs is more important than providing medically-accurate information and resource-referrals to clients. Accordingly, researchers and educators have a responsibility to further highlight abortion as an important social work topic. Participants noted that the subject of abortion is avoided in education settings because of stigma and polarized opinions. Arguably, however, social workers should receive training regarding this important public health topic, while exploring their beliefs in classroom settings prior to engaging with clients.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe how social workers encounter abortion as a topic in work with clients in practice settings. Evaluate how social workers are trained to work with clients regarding the topic of abortion. Discuss how social workers' personal beliefs may impact their work with clients regarding abortion.

Keyword(s): Abortion, Social Work

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am PhD Candidate at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, where I conduct mixed methods research regarding reproductive and sexual health decision-making, policy, and education.
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.