The intent for the development in 1988 of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) Position Statement on Abortion was in response to the increasing legislative activity concerning abortion law, as well as requests from the professional nursing community with regard to their rights and responsibilities and the rights of their patients pertaining to the issue of abortion. NYSNA has, through the Council on Ethics and Human Rights, continued to study and research the issues surrounding abortion and reaffirms the position of the rights of women as patients and nurses.
Note: The use of the term “patient” anywhere in this document is intended to be generic and refers to the recipient of nursing care.
Abortion: The spontaneous or induced termination of pregnancy before the fetus reaches a viable age (Taber’s, 2010).
Abortion: The termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus (Merriam-Webster, 2010).
Therapeutic abortion: Performed when the pregnancy endangers the mother's mental or physical health or when the fetus has a known condition incompatible with life (Taber’s, 2010).
Therapeutic abortion: Abortion induced when pregnancy constitutes a threat to the physical or mental health of the mother (Merriam-Webster, 2010).
Spontaneous abortion: Abortion occurring without apparent cause (Taber’s, 2010).
Spontaneous abortion: Naturally occurring expulsion of a nonviable fetus (Merriam-Webster, 2010).
Miscarriage: Lay term for termination of pregnancy at any time before the fetus has attained the potential for extra-uterine viability (Taber’s, 2010).
Miscarriage: Spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus before it is viable and especially between the 12th and 28th weeks of gestation (Merriam-Webster, 2010).
New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) recognizes that the 1973 decision of the United States Supreme Court in Roe versus Wade to legitimize abortion remains a controversial issue (Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)).
Advocacy groups on both sides continue to debate their points of view. NYSNA believes that the rights of both the patient and nurses must be taken into consideration. “The nature of abortion and the decision-making process it involves can be particularly sensitive issues for all involved. The abortion debate is not a simple one and is not reducible to simplistic pro-choice or pro-life standpoints. It is essential that health professionals understand the issues behind the arguments and are able to support and inform their patients when required” (Chaloner, 2007, p.48).
The role and responsibility of the nurse as well as the rights of patients are supported within law, and within the ethical framework provided by the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements (2001).
Founded within these principles it is the position of NYSNA that:
Patients’ Rights include:
Registered Professional Nurses' Rights and Responsibilities include:
The New York State Nurses Association and the Council on Ethics and Human Rights support the following actions for registered professional nurses with regard to abortion procedures:
Approved by the Board of Directors on May 18-19, 1988; March, 1990; September 15, 2004; September 15, 2010.
Reviewed/Revised by the Councils on Ethical Practice and Human Rights on August 27, 2004.
Reviewed/Revised by the Councils on Ethical Practice and Human Rights on March 12, 2010.
American Nurses Association (1996). Position statement on reproductive health. Washington, DC: Author.
American Nurses Association (2001). Code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements. Washington, DC: Author.
Chaloner, J. K. (2007). Ethics of abortion: The arguments for and against. Nursing Standards, 21(37), 45-48.
Gould’s Consolidated Laws of New York (2004). Chapter 6-Civil Rights Law, Article 7- Miscellaneous rights, Section 79-1 Discrimination against persons who refuses to perform certain acts prohibited.
Merriam-Webster Medical On-line Dictionary (2010). Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abortion
New York State Nurses Association (1989). Resolution on reproductive health services. Latham, NY: Author.
Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).
Taber’s online dictionary (2010). Retrieved from http://www.tabers.com/tabersonline/ub
Taber’s dictionary (2001).
For more information on nursing practice, contact NYSNA's Education, Practice and Research Program at 518.782.9400, ext. 282 or by e-mail.