The University of California, San Francisco, is offering an online class to teach future doctors how to do abortions.
The free, six week class, titled “Abortion: Quality Care and Public Health Implications,” addresses abortion-related topics ranging from first trimester abortion care to “obstacles” to abortion access. Nearly 3,000 people have signed up, according to The Daily Beast. Through the class, Jody Steinauer, assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, aims to reduce what she calls a gap between abortion education and its practice. The class begins Oct. 13.
Abortion is common around the world, Steinauer says in the course description, and “safe abortions” have a lower mortality rate than childbirth, a claim pro-life advocates dispute. “Despite its universality, abortion remains controversial and inaccessible for many women,” she writes. The lack of abortion education in medical courses as well as legal restrictions have encouraged inaccessibility, she claims.
But many obstetricians and gynecologists refuse to do abortions because they choose to adhere to the Hippocratic Oath, not because their education didn’t cover abortions, Donna Harrison, the executive director of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told me.
“Any OBGYN knows how to empty a uterus at any stage,” she said. “It’s just that most OBGYNs recognize that there are two patients.”
A 2011 study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology revealed that although 97 percent of OBGYNs had encountered a woman who desired an abortion, only 14 percent agreed to carry out the procedure. The study also found that female doctors are more likely to do abortions than men. And region plays a role as well: OBGYNs in the Northeast and urban areas are more likely to do abortions than doctors in the South and Midwest.
Not only is abortion unpopular among OBGYNs, it’s also becoming more unpopular among Americans as a whole. Nearly half of Americans believe abortion should be limited in some way, a May Gallup poll revealed. And the half who approve of limitations also believe abortions should be limited in most circumstances.
Steinauer has a history of promoting abortion among the medical community. As a student, she founded Medical Students for Choice, The Daily Beast reported. The non-profit works to reduce stigma against abortion and to promote the incorporation of abortion in medical school curriculum. Steinauer also directs Innovating Education in Reproductive Health, which provides educational resources on abortion and family planning.
But instead of abortion, medical schools should focus on informing students about abortion’s three primary effects, facts that are well-established in medical literature, Harrison said. First, an abortion increases a woman’s risk of preterm birth in future pregnancies. And with 1 in 12 pregnancies ending prematurely, abortion has helped create an epidemic in the United States, she said. Second, abortion adversely affects a woman’s mental health—sometimes resulting in suicide. And third, studies have shown abortion might increase susceptibility to breast cancer.
“Those facts should be taught at every medical school,” Harrison said.
— by Courtney Crandell