Doctors on the front lines of reproductive rights debates say these challenges are already having a devastating impact on the profession and on people who seek care. Experts on Friday’s panel said that many medical students are traveling to California, which has been investing in building its abortion training programs, or to other states that support abortion rights, like Maryland and New York, where Mamelson is heading to continue her education.
“Many learners that we support don’t find that the amount of abortion training they’re getting is enough” in states with bans and restrictions, said Flor Hunt, executive director of TEACH (Training in Early Abortion for Comprehensive Healthcare), a program that promotes abortion training for family physicians. Unlike OB-GYN doctors, family physicians are not mandated to learn how to empty a uterus. But reproductive rights advocates say that increasing understanding and training across family medicine is necessary to provide a fuller spectrum of health services. “That means oftentimes traveling to another state or perhaps to another city where there is a higher volume of abortion cases and where they can do a rotation and get a lot more abortion experience.”
In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the historic Roe v. Wade decision that previously upheld the constitutional right to abortion.
Today, abortions are mostly banned in 14 states, including Idaho, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. Other states, like Arizona and Montana, have moved to ban abortion outright but those attempts have been either blocked or limited to a specific gestation period.
Across the rest of the country, abortion remains legal. California, in particular, has positioned itself as a so-called abortion sanctuary. The state enshrined the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution, and has set up resources like a state website for people seeking abortions to find travel and medical support. Hunt’s organization also helped shepherd a package of 16 bills through the California state Legislature last year that aim to create more opportunities for abortion education by increasing funding for training programs and other life-saving reproductive procedures.
But for prospective OB-GYN doctors in states that have restricted access, education and training have become much more difficult.