Masthead small

SMFM Special Statement: A critical examination of abortion terminology as it relates to access and quality of care

Legal, institutional, and payer policies regulating reproductive health care lack a shared language with medicine, resulting in great confusion and consternation. This paper critically examines the implications and ramifications of unclear language related to abortion care. Using a case-based approach, we highlight the ways in which language and terminology may affect the quality and accessibility of care. We also address repercussions for providers and patients within their team, institutional, state, and payer landscapes. In particular, we explore the stigmatization of abortion as both a word and a process, the role of caregivers as gatekeepers, the implications of viability as a limit for access, and the hierarchy of deservedness and value. Recognizing the role of language in these discussions is critical to building systems that honor the complexities of patient-centered reproductive decision-making, ensure access to comprehensive reproductive health care including abortion, and center patient autonomy. Healthcare providers are uniquely positioned to facilitate institutional, state, and national landscapes in which pregnant patients are supported in their autonomy and provided with just and equitable reproductive health care.