Our aim was to assess physicians’ perspectives of what constitutes abortion advocacy and the skills needed to be effective in their efforts to safeguard legal abortion.
Alumni from a physician training programme for sexual and reproductive health advocacy completed a cross-sectional survey including questions on perceived skills needed for effective advocacy. The research team conducted in-depth interviews (IDIs) with alumni, based on their level of engagement in advocacy. We present descriptive statistics for survey data and themes identified in the interview data using techniques informed by grounded theory.
Of the survey respondents (n=231), almost a third (28.6%; n=66) felt the most important media skill they learnt was the ability to stay on message. The most important policy skill was communicating effectively with policymakers (47.0%; n=108), followed by distilling evidence for policymakers and laypeople (13.0%; n=30). In the IDIs (n=36), participants reported activities such as media interviews as clear examples of advocacy, but also considered implementing institutional policies and abortion provision to be advocacy. They discussed how individual comfort and capacity for advocacy activities may change over time, given personal and professional considerations. Regardless of the type of activity, physicians valued strategic communication and relationship-building skills.
Based on our findings, training programmes that seek to mobilise physician advocates to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights should work with trainees to create a tailored advocacy plan that fits their personal and professional lives and goals. Regardless of the types of advocacy activities physicians focus on, strategic communication may be central in skills-based training.