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Experiences of reproductive genetic counselors with abortion regulations in Ohio
Since 2010, Ohio legislators have passed more than 15 legislative changes related to abortion and abortion providers, and nine procedural abortion clinics have closed. We investigated reproductive genetic counselors' perceptions, attitudes and self-reported practices regarding Ohio's current and proposed abortion regulations. We conducted five focus groups and two telephone interviews in 2019-2020, with a total of 19 reproductive genetic counselors. Participants discussed difficulties keeping current on abortion legislation and clinics' and hospitals' policies, resulting in anticipatory anxiety and leading to additional work to discuss the laws with patients. Participants articulated that practices of reproductive genetic counseling-and patient advocacy-are impeded by the legislation. Genetic counselors perceive negative impacts on patients' autonomy, particularly reflective of healthcare disparities of marginalized groups, which may contribute to frustration and anger. Ultimately, the mental and emotional burden on genetic counselors created by abortion legislation contributes to compassion fatigue and burnout. Our findings show that Ohio's abortion regulations negatively impact reproductive genetic counselors and their relationships with their patients. Repealing existing abortion regulations and preventing future restrictive legislation may ameliorate the negative effects of regulations on reproductive genetic counselors and their patients. In the event that these laws remain, innovative communication tools and proactive professional society advocacy are potential means to mitigate the negative impact on reproductive genetic counselors.