Abortion care training is banned in some states. A new bill could help OB-GYNs get it
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Sami Stroebel, an aspiring obstetrician-gynecologist, started medical school at the University of Wisconsin at Madison last summer just weeks after the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion.
“I sat there and I was like, ‘How will the education that I receive change and how will my experience of wanting to provide this patient care change in the future?'”
Senator Tammy Baldwin, the Democrat from Wisconsin, has an answer to that question.
Today, she and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, are introducing the reproductive health care education bill. She establishes a grant program, to provide $25 million annually over the next five years to fund medical students leaving their states to learn abortion care and programs that train them. It’s especially important in states like Wisconsin that have near-total bans on abortions.
“Students and their supervising physicians have to travel out of state to get that part of their education,” Baldwin tells NPR. “Meanwhile, neighboring states and this is happening in the United States are accepting an influx of students.”
Stroebel, who co-heads her school’s chapter of the national advocacy group Medical Students for Choice, wants to learn how to provide abortion care. The same procedures and medications used to provide abortion are also needed when a pregnancy ends in miscarriage and in other women’s health care that has nothing to do with pregnancy.
To become licensed, aspiring OB-GYNs must learn how to perform procedures and prescribe medications. But in Dobbs vs. Jackson’s Women’s Health, the Supreme Court essentially made abortion rights a state-by-state issue.
“Wisconsin has reverted to the 1849 law where abortion is essentially completely illegal except in cases where it is stated that the woman’s life is in imminent danger,” Stroebel says.
Medical schools in Wisconsin and other near-ban states cannot teach abortion care.
Baldwin says that since the Dobbs decision, there has been a documented decline in OB-GYN medical residents applying to practice in Wisconsin and other states with bans.
“It’s exacerbating what was already a shortage of providers in the state providing maternity care and cancer screenings and other routine care,” Baldwin says.
Dr. Christina Francis, head of the American Association of Pro-Life OB-GYNs, says medical education in pregnancy care needs to be better, but in her view it should focus on routine care for the problems that make pregnancy complicated and unsafe such as preeclampsia, diabetes and all the problems that lead to the high rate of caesarean sections in the United States
“We need to invest money in caring for women during and after pregnancy, and not invest money in ending the life of one of our patients and harming the other patient in the process,” says Francis.
Studies show that most patients who have had an abortion do not regret having one, and abortion procedures are much safer than pregnancy and childbirth itself.
Francis also says that treating miscarriage and other gynecological problems gives aspiring doctors all the training they need. “I trained in a Catholic hospital. We didn’t do abortions,” says Francis. “We’ve been very well trained in how to empty a woman’s uterus. This is just part of the normal OB residency.”
But state laws in Dobbs’ vein are also upending miscarriage care. Abortion care training has been a problem for years in states like Texas that began severely restricting abortion long before the Dobbs dominant.
Given the new legal landscape, Stroebel isn’t sure how or where she will practice in the future. For now, she wants to finish her medical education with the state school where she enrolled, but she’s worried about her classmates and other students in states where abortion is banned.
“It’s scary to think that, you know, if a lot of OB-GYNs and up-and-coming medical students want this training and they can’t get it in places like Wisconsin or Idaho or Alabama or Texas, you know what’s going to happen to people who have need that cure in those states?”
#Abortion #care #training #banned #states #bill #OBGYNs