AWOHNN Reproductive Rights Workshop

Would you consider sitting in a room of nurses to listen and discuss the topic, Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice when the majority of viewpoints most likely opposed your ownThis is exactly where I found myself when I attended the 2017 AWHONN Conference last month in New Orleans representing Sparrow Solutions Group.

While finding my seat and reviewing the power point slides, I prayed that God would show me if I should speak, if so, when and what I should say.  I also hoped to gain an understanding of the viewpoints of the nurses in the room.  I also prayed for the hearts of these nurses to know Jesus and value life.  God reminded me of 1 Corinthians 2:14, “the person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”  Although I would defend the value of all life if asked, it seemed best in this setting to understand their viewpoints and come away with the wisdom to more effectively advocate for life with a ready answer as in 1 Peter 3:15.

The room was mostly filled with clinical educators and Directors of Nursing units, however, a few staff nurses with a passion for “abortion care” were also in attendance. During the course of the workshop, both the instructors and participants voiced concerns and fears over women not having access to abortion services under the proposed new health care laws.  They used words like, “dark ages,” “doomsday scenarios,” “self-induced abortions,” “frightening times,” feeling “demoralized,” and “run down.”  They were concerned that “unintended pregnancy management” didn’t seem to hold a legitimate place in the spectrum of pregnancy care for most health care practitioners.

The instructors discussed the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics, Conscientious Objection and Dishonorable Disobedience.  They discussed two quotes in particular to support their viewpoint of the nurse’s role in participation in abortion services.  “Healthcare professionals who exercise conscientious objection are using their position of trust and authority to impose their personal beliefs on patients who are completely dependent on them for essential healthcare.”[1]

“Unlike conscripted soldiers, health care professionals voluntarily choose their roles and thus become obligated to provide, perform, and refer patients for intervention according to the standards of the profession.”[2]

The instructors presented the Nurse Practice Act and the scope of practice definitions for who can provide abortions and contraception.  They discussed the value and ability of nurses in providing contraception services and even potentially mifepristone and misoprostol.

One nurse shared that she entered the nursing profession specifically to assist with providing “abortion care”.  She said the turnover rate amongst nurses providing these services was high due to safety, scope of practice concerns as well as the disconnect with maternal health vs. abortive services.  She said she left her job providing abortion care as she felt it lacked the stability needed for professional development.  Some nurses discussed ways to improve the legitimacy of abortion services among nurses by attending abortion conferences, promoting awareness and philanthropic efforts geared toward the training of nurses.

We participated in a case study, which discussed a pregnant mother with an adverse diagnosis electing to terminate her pregnancy after three different physicians recommended abortion.  The study was meant to clarify values and teach patient advocacy.   Defining terminology such as “miscarriage of expected outcome” and use of the word, “baby” rather than “fetus” was discussed.  The case study was from an actual L&D nurse, who was treated poorly by her colleagues for her decision to abort.

For the rest of the AWHONN conference, I thought about the feelings and opinions expressed by the instructors and a few of the 15 women who attended this workshop.  I thought of the caricature we often make of the pro-abort side and the caricature they make of the pro-life side.  I was surprised to hear their feelings of illegitimacy and fear, when it seems pro-life advocates often feel this way when defending their beliefs.  But as I heard speaker after speaker discuss “we’re in the business of saving lives”

and slogans such as,

Every Woman deserves the best care; Every Baby deserves the best start in life,”

I could understand their feelings a little.

One nurse in a later workshop said, “We don’t get into this business thinking we’ll hurt someone.”  How true!  Abortion kills babies and hurts women and men.  I was reminded that the battle to value every life is a spiritual one.  Ephesians 6:12 describes the struggle not being against flesh and blood, but against the authorities, powers of this dark world, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  May you be encouraged and never feel illegitimate or fearful.  “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4) May God use this new understanding and awareness for His glory and our good.

My hope is to share the information gathered throughout the whole conference on a wide range of valuable topics to you in the PMC through our classes, newsletter, and Sparrow 33.   Stay tuned for more!


Kari Haug
Sparrow Solutions Group
Director of Nurse Operations

Mark your calendars for the 2018 AWOHNN Conference, June 23-27 at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, FL.

[1]Fiala and Arthur, 2014.  “Dishonourable Disobedience” – Why Refusal to Treat in Reproductive Healthcare is not Conscientious Objection.  Retrieved from:

[2] Stahl and Emanuel, 2017.  Physicians, Not Conscripts — Conscientious Objection in Health Care.  Retrieved from:

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

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