Story at a glance
- A new study analyzed how abortion training would be impacted if the Supreme Court rules to overturn Roe v. Wade.
- Researchers found that 44 percent of obstetrician-gynecology residents would likely lack access to in-state abortion training.
- The Supreme Court is set to deliver its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health in June, a case that directly challenges the 1973 ruling on Roe v. Wade.
The Supreme Court is readying its decision on a monumental abortion rights case that could set a new standard for state laws. The decision may also influence how future doctors are trained, with nearly half of U.S. obstetrician-gynecologists at risk of not receiving proper abortion training.
In June, the Supreme Court is set to deliver its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, a case centered around a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy that directly challenges the court’s 1973 ruling on Roe V. Wade. The decision would have an immediate impact across the country, as a growing number of states have already passed legislation that restricts or bans abortion.
The decision could also impact how future obstetrician-gynecologists (OB-GYNs), doctors specializing in women’s health, would be trained, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Of the 286 accredited OB-GYN residency programs included in the study, 128, about 45 percent, were in states certain or likely to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
That means of the 6,007 current OB-GYN residents included in the study, 2,638 of them are certain or likely to lack access to in-state abortion training — about 44 percent.
Researchers found that in 2020, 92 percent of OB-GYN residents reported having access to some level of abortion training.
The study only accounted for OB-GYN residency programs and did not include family physicians or other clinicians who also receive abortion training.
The consequences of lack of training are serious and far-reaching, from abortion care to managing early pregnancy loss to treating people who manage their own abortions.
Abortion training also confers other important skills including bedside manner, counseling, trauma-informed care, miscarriage management and more — something Kavita Vinekar, assistance clinical professor at the University of California-Los Angeles and first author of the study, emphasized in a statement.
“Those are skills I got in my abortion training that I use every single day in all of the non-abortion care that I do,” Vinekar said.
Abortion rights advocacy group the Guttmacher Institute estimates that 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, with 22 already having laws or constitutional amendments in place that would make them certain to attempt to ban abortion as quickly as possible.
In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has signing a law that puts further restrictions on how women can access medication abortion, including banning them through telemedicine. The law, however, is currently being held up in litigation after a complaint was filed by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Dakota.
Noem is riding on the prospective Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, saying in a tweet, “I look forward to the day when all life (born and unborn) is protected by law. This litigation will help.”
That’s worrying many physicians, including Jody Steinauer, director of Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at University of California-San Francisco and senior author of the study.
“Decimating abortion training in half of the country will have far-reaching impacts. It could affect the care of future patients of clinicians who trained in these states where they go on to practice. We need to develop new and innovative ways to train OB-GYNs and other clinicians to provide this essential care,” Steinauer said.
Steinauer and other researchers recommended that clinical educators consider arranging out-of-state travel rotations, patient-centered early pregnancy loss training and abortion simulation curricula for OB-GYN residents that are in programs in states that have restrictive abortion care laws.
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