Abortion training experts launch California’s Reproductive Health Service Corps

A consortium including Bixby Center leaders in sexual and reproductive health is launching California’s Reproductive Health Service Corps (RHSC), an unprecedented statewide initiative to improve access to abortion care and training and diversify the state’s reproductive health workforce.

Forty percent of California counties lack an abortion provider. Abortion providers are reporting steep increases in patients traveling from out of state where abortion is no longer available to them. Healthcare learners and providers are eager to help fill those gaps, but many healthcare professionals receive little to no education about their role or skills training in abortion care.

California’s RHSC program stands out from other state programs by offering full-spectrum reproductive health training to all members of the care team—registered nurses, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, physician’s assistants, licensed midwives, physicians, licensed vocational nurses, doulas, medical assistants, community health workers and paramedics will all be eligible. Over the next four years, the program will help fill provider gaps in underserved areas and provide funding and technical assistance to help clinics integrate services. A key component of the program is diversifying the workforce to reflect the racial, ethnic, linguistic, and economic diversity of communities across California.

The consortium is coordinated by Training in Early Abortion for Comprehensive Healthcare (TEACH) and includes TEACH; California State University East Bay, Department of Nursing; Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health (NSRH); and University of California, San Francisco’s primary care advanced practice nursing specialties, Black Midwifery Fellowship, and Abortion Care Training Incubator for Outstanding Nurse Scholars (ACTIONS) program.

Linda Franck, RN, PhD, of ACTIONS said, "The Reproductive Health Service Corps is a visionary approach to expand access to abortion training for all health professions and addresses a major bottleneck to people accessing reproductive health care. We look forward to working with the consortium partners to show the impact of this vital work.” Asmara Gebre, CNM, of the Black Midwifery Fellowship added, "I have high hopes for getting closer to fulfilling Californians’ sexual and reproductive health needs and also inspiring future reproductive health care leaders in the state and beyond.” 

The Reproductive Health Service Corps was created through AB 1918, authored by Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris and subsequently funded through Governor Newsom’s 2022 budget. The grant was awarded by the California Department of Health Care Access and Information. The bill was based on recommendations developed by the California Future of Abortion Council to respond to drastic changes in the abortion access landscape.

A website for prospective scholars will launch in spring 2024.

"TEACH is thrilled to lead this historic initiative, and to broaden our program’s reach to include advanced practice clinicians, new fellows, and underserved areas of the state where patients will be better served through the integration of abortion services into primary care," added Flor Hunt, TEACH's Executive Director.