Nursing Ethics in Abortion Decisions

Nursing is a profession that requires working with people and helping them remain healthy. This process is a complicated one since it not only requires taking care of people’s physical health but also paying attention to their mental health and important decisions patients make. It may be very challenging, especially when it comes to dealing with a certain controversial issue, which may arise. An example may be seen when a nurse has to deal with a patient willing to get an abortion. Therefore, this case requires a nurse to take an ethical stand, but also pay attention to health conditions of a patient and professional and legal requirements.

Debates Concerning Abortion

Some say that it is ethical and perfectly normal act, while others have the opposite view on the matter. When it comes to nursing, professionals may also have different opinions on this issue. There are some nurses who believe that patient’s decisions are the top priorities, which should be taken into consideration. Hence, if a patient decides to have an abortion, she should definitely be allowed to get one, and no one can oppose such an idea. Nurses, in this case, state that a person knows best what she wants from her life as well as body, and choosing abortion is her conscious choice which has to be fulfilled. They also find an abortion to be an ethical act and never advice a patient not to do it if health allows so.


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Nevertheless, just like with debates in society, there are also nurses who are strongly against abortion. They find it to be an unethical act, which leads to killing of an unborn person, and that is why they consider abortion to be against humanistic principles. That is why nurses face an ethical dilemma while dealing with a patient who wants to get an abortion. From one point of view, nurses have to remain professional, and do all they can to help a patient. They also cannot judge a woman for that decision because of professional ethics. Nevertheless, nurses’ moral principles may go against the professional code, and, in this case, there is a conflict of interests and value systems. A nurse, in this case, has to determine what is more important: his or her personal beliefs and ethics or professionalism.

It may seem like an easy decision since a nurse has to be professional no matter what. Nevertheless, the struggle a nurse may experience because of this ethical issue may be a very difficult one (Cappiello & Simmonds, 2011). Working with a patient willing to get an abortion may be so challenging for a convinced person that he or she may even refuse and ask another nurse to do it. Hence, one should not underestimate the complexity of this issue.

Thus, one can say that abortion as an ethical issue in nursing is a very serious matter that cannot be treated lightly. It puts a certain burden on the nurse, because she or he has to determine how to act in such a controversial situation.

One would like to say that a professional always has to think of a patient first. Whether one supports or opposes abortions, professionalism is still the main idea in nursing. A nurse cannot get one’s personal feelings and beliefs interfere or worsen the health of a patient. That is why a nurse always has to keep in mind that at work, the professional code is the most important one. A nurse may deal with serious inner struggles, but an inability to work them out would be a sign of lack of professionalism.

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From this perspective, it is clear that in case of a patient getting an abortion, a nurse has to provide a patient with professional medical help and never judge such a person. Judging would be extremely unethical, because it is not up to medical professional to evaluate patient’s decisions as long as they are completely legal. Legal side of this issue is very important. Although abortions are legal throughout the United States, there are still certain restrictions when it comes to this process. For example, there may be problems with actually getting an abortion due to a small amount of clinics that do that. Hence, it is up to a nurse to help and give a wise solution for a patient in this situation. Of course, if a nurse works in a clinic that does not do abortions, it is easier for a professional to distance oneself from this act. Nevertheless, he or she has to understand that it is impossible never to intersect with abortions and people getting them. Hence, despite ethical dilemma and try to distance oneself from this issue, a nurse still has to remain professional and realize that a patient is there since she needs help.

Also, there are certain restrictions depending on the state so a nurse would have to pay attention to all of them depending on territory and geographic location (Rolnick & Vorhies, 2012). In this case, a nurse has to balance professional help with civil obedience, because helping a patient can never contradict a law.

From this perspective, one would really like to project a real-life scenario of a nurse having to deal with a patient thinking of getting an abortion. A nurse may actually be pro-life, and he/she does not support abortions finding them to be unethical acts of killing (O’Malley, 2013). Still, a nurse is a professional willing to be as helpful to the patient as possible. That is why he/she should put one’s ethical beliefs behind one’s professionalism and communicate with a patient as well as understand her reasons for getting an abortion. This communication gives the only window for a nurse to express one’s personal opinion, which may influence a patient’s decision. For example, if a nurse finds out about patient’s reasons for getting an abortion and doubts a patient may have over this decision, a nurse can recommend a patient alterative option. It should be done without any pressure or judgments, but simply indicate that a nurse cares for a patient and wants her to choose the best option for her future and health. For example, a patient may be unsure what she really wants to do and has doubts about ending or continuing pregnancy. In this case, a nurse may be the one giving a professional advice. He/ she may consult a doctor and speak to a patient, providing her with the best options taking into consideration health conditions a patient is in. Also, a nurse may support a patient, especially when she needs personal advice and help. Sometimes, patients specifically ask nurses for their thoughts about the particular issue. If such a situation occurs, a nurse may say what he or she really thinks, but it should be presented in objective and critics-free manner so a patient would not feel uncomfortable or wrong. A nurse may state what he or she thinks of getting/not getting an abortion, as well as describe possible physical and psychological consequences. Still, such statements should not force a patient to do anything and can be said only if a patient wants to hear them. This way, it would be possible to combine professionalism and stick to one’s ethical values and principles.

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In case a nurse is pro-choice, it is easier for him or her to work with a patient getting an abortion. Nevertheless, even such a situation requires a nurse to analyze all of pros and cons of such a decision and its possible affects on a person. A nurse has to understand that patients often view nurses and medical workers not simply as professionals treating them, but also as people who can provide valuable advice concerning health. The fact that a nurse is pro-choice should not prevent him or her from telling a patient that getting an abortion may be risky or threatening to her health. After all, it is only logical and expected that a nurse should tell a patient all of the required information regarding abortions, health, legal side of the issue and possible consequences despite his or her stance on this issue.

As it was mentioned before, a pro-choice nurse would not experience the same ethical dilemma as a pro-life nurse. Nevertheless, there still may be troubles for a pro-choice nurse as well. He or she may feel a particular pressure when a patient comes who seeks an abortion but whose health conditions prohibit it, or when it goes against the law or clinic’s possibilities. In this case, a nurse may feel an ethical dilemma, too. He or she may feel torn between two options of helping a patient or acting in accordance to professional standards. Still, in this situation, just like with the scenario of pro-choice nurse, professionalism must prevail. It is an only way for a nurse to deal with ethical issues remaining just, honest and doing one’s job well.

Thus, one can say that in different scenarios, nurses may be exposed to different types of pressures and worries about acting right and cooperating with patients. They may deal with inner struggles concerning their ethical beliefs and find an issue of abortion to be rather difficult for them to comprehend. Nevertheless, despite the scenario and ethical stance, a nurse always has a compass to guide him or her through worries and insecurities when it comes to a controversial issue as this one. This compass if a professional code of nurse that clearly states that a nurse has to help a patient to be healthy and act strictly in accordance to professional ethics and law. Personal beliefs should not interfere in this case for the reason that they would simply contradict professionalism and harm both the nurse and the patient. That is why it is so important to be able to distinguish personal from professional.

Nursing profession is not easy, especially when there are controversial ethical issues, and patients require advice which may go beyond professional field. Still, no matter what, a nurse has to think of a patient first and do everything possible to prevent one from being harmed even by one’s decisions. That is why it is so important for a nurse to weigh all of the data concerning a certain patient and provide a patient with clear and objective information concerning abortion, its effects and the overall description of a process. A nurse has to understand that he or she is not a judge and has to be very professional all the time avoiding any personal comments, but he or she still has to care greatly for a patient, finding the best solutions in the risky situation. Hence, a nurse has to combine professionalism with human side and do everything to provide a patient with the best solution of an ethical issue.

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