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Medical students’ attitudes to abortion: a comparison between Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Oslo
  1. R Steele
  1. Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
  1. Rosie Steele, Department of General Practice, Dunluce Health Centre, 1 Dunluce Avenue, Belfast BT9 7HR, UK; rosieasteele{at}


Background: Abortion policy varies significantly between Northern Ireland and Norway. This is the first study to compare medical students’ attitudes towards abortion in two different countries.

Objective: To assess medical students’ attitudes to abortion at the University of Oslo (UiO) and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

Design: An anonymous questionnaire completed by 59 medical students at UiO and 86 medical students at QUB.

Participants: Students who had completed their obstetrics and gynaecology placements during 2006/2007.

Results: The students’ responses (UiO versus QUB) were as follows: response rate, 95.2% vs 92.5%; stated no religious affiliation, 48.0% vs 4.7%; pro-abortion, 78.2% vs 14.3% (χ2 = 58.160, p<0.001); had seen an abortion while studying medicine, 74.6% vs 9.4% (χ2 = 73.183, p<0.001); in favour of abortion when there was a threat to the mother’s life, 100% vs 93.3% (χ2 = 6.143, p = 0.150); in favour of providing abortion on the mother’s request, 86.4% vs 9.3% (χ2 = 42.067, p<0.001); in agreement that women should have access to free abortion services (mean value on a 5-point Likert scale 1.69 out of 5), versus in disagreement (mean 3.76, p<0.001).

Conclusion: There were significant differences in students’ attitudes to abortion, reflecting differences in religious, legal and educational experiences.

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  • Funding: A medical student elective bursary was provided by the Institute of Medical Ethics.

  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Ethics approval: Ethics approval was obtained from the research ethics committee of School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queens University Belfast (reference number 07/01).

  • Provenance and Peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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