OB/GYN residents will get ‘second-rate’ education if abortions are banned

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

“One of the impacts of [an abortion ban] in these states that have restrictions and have restrictions on training [is that] they will get lesser quality applicants and lesser quality faculty,” says Utah OB/GYN David Turok. Photo by Shutterstock.

Learning how to perform an abortion is an essential part of an OB/GYN’s medical training. But nearly half of all U.S. OB/GYN residency programs are in states that could ban them if Roe v. Wade falls. And if states outlaw the procedure, it’ll no longer be taught.

Dr. David Turok is an OB/GYN in Salt Lake City, Utah — a state where abortions could soon be restricted due to its trigger law, with exceptions only for rape, incest, and saving the life of the mother. 

Turok tells KCRW that he and his colleagues are bracing for the reversal of Roe v. Wade and are concentrating on how to provide care to those who need it. He says traveling to another state to learn how to perform an abortion is an option. 

“Relationships exist between academic medical centers, and it will be a serious stressor for those for the states where it is legal. There will be efforts made and people will be traveling to get this kind of critical experience,” Turok explains. “I'm in a clinic where we had a resident who traveled from the Midwest because in her program, she can't get the training that she needs in order to do her job when she's done. So she sought it out and worked on it for a year to make it happen.” 

Although residents can still meet the minimum OB/GYN requirements without learning abortion care, Turok says that level of education might pose long-term complications. 

“They're doing it by caring for people with miscarriages and abnormal pregnancies. That's a second-rate approach. For the 20 years that I have worked in a university program, we have had dedicated time where residents learned how to do topquality abortion care. And one of the impacts of [an abortion ban] in these states that have restrictions and have restrictions on training [is that] they will get lesser quality applicants and lesser quality faculty.”

Turok points out that the abortion curriculum might be short, but it can be used in other complex family planning specialties, such as those who work in infertility and with patients experiencing high-risk pregnancies. 

Over the last couple of decades, Turok says he’s seen increasing numbers of OB/GYNs opt out of abortion training. But now, nearly every resident is enthusiastic about the training. 

“I think there's a growing consciousness and sense of need among the young people who are getting trained now. And people coming out of medical school — the best applicants are highly committed and have a greater understanding of the need for this kind of care, and they're putting themselves in positions where they can get the best training. … And it will definitely be harder to attract the top candidates if we are not offering top-quality training and abortion care.”

But even if abortion is banned, Turok says patients and medical professionals will find new ways to carry out the procedure. 

“One of the main changes that we are seeing and we'll continue to see in abortion care is the transition toward more people doing medication abortion,”  he explains. “It works very, very, well the vast majority of the time, but it's not perfect. People will come in for care as needed around that. And that's one way to provide this kind of training and additional clinics that end up in border locations is another. Not to mention simulation and practice in simulated settings. There's a variety of things that can and will be done.”