People who have been refused abortion care or contraception wanted for reproductive rights study

For immediate release

Participants sought who had experiences in New Brunswick, Ontario, and Alberta

NATIONAL – Researchers from the University of Ottawa are recruiting participants for a study gathering experiences on belief-based denial of contraception and abortion care in Canada, specifically in New Brunswick, Ontario, and Alberta. The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) is a partner in the study. 

Belief-based care denial or “conscientious objection” refers to refusal by a healthcare professional to provide a legal, patient-requested medical service based on their personal or religious beliefs.

Care can be denied in several ways, including refusing to provide direct services or follow-up, delaying appointments, refusing to provide referrals, or treating the patient disrespectfully.

There is a shortage of research on patients’ experiences of being refused care and the consequences of this refusal, specifically in Canada. In its report on belief-based care denial, ARCC explains, “Unfortunately, there is no data on what refusers are doing or what they’re saying to patients, and we rarely hear about what happens to patients who have been refused care.”

Research from the US shows that being denied care results in poor health, financial, and family outcomes for ciswomen, transmen, gender non-binary folks, and Two Spirit people (womxn). While the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) allows healthcare providers to refuse care or referrals on the basis of their personal beliefs, such policies appear to be in conflict with the CMA code of ethics and anti-discrimination clauses, and have been called unethical by biomedical ethicists. 

“The denial of legal and necessary care is a violation of patients’ right to health care and moral autonomy,” said Joyce Arthur, Executive Director of ARCC. “The extent of harm caused is on a continuum and can be much worse than a short delay.”

“Talking directly to people who have been denied care would shed light on the extent of this practice in Canada, and how to mitigate the harms,” said Arthur. “This knowledge would also help advance reproductive rights and abortion access in Canada.

Dr. Anvita Dixit, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa, is the principal investigator of this study. She is supported by senior co-investigator, Dr. Angel Foster, Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Ottawa. Joyce Arthur is the team leader for ARCC.

Anvita, Angel, Joyce and their teams hope to identify patterns in the experiences that are collected and areas that can be addressed going forward, through policy and advocacy work. This research can shine light on gaps in care and provide the data necessary to improve the wellbeing of womxn across Canada.

Individuals are eligible to participate via a confidential 90-minute online or phone audio, if they have experienced refusal or denial of contraception or abortion services in the past 10 years (on/after January 1, 2012) in New Brunswick, Ontario, or Alberta. If accepted, they will be offered a $40 gift certificate to 

People interested in participating can email for more information.


Source: The Refusal to Provide Health Care in Canada: A Look at “Conscientious Objection” Policies in Canadian Health Care:

Media Contacts:

Joyce Arthur Executive Director / Directrice générale, ARCC-CDAC, Vancouverjoyce@arcc-cdac.ca604-351-0867
Anvita Dixit, PhD MITACS Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawaadixit2@uottawa.ca613-562-5800 ext 2316
Angel Foster, DPhil, MD, AM Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of OttawaAngel.Foster@uottawa.ca613-562-5800 ext 2316

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