Abortion training for medical residents on the rise, but gaps remain

medical residents

Abortion is one of the most common reproductive health experiences of women in the US, yet access to abortion is highly dependent on your zip code. In addition to state restrictions that impede access to safe, timely abortion care, a lack of providers can be a major barrier. New research from the Bixby Center looks at the current status of abortion training in residency programs around the country and how they are preparing residents to provide comprehensive care.

Researchers surveyed ob/gyn residency program directors and found that abortion training has become more available. Nearly 15 years ago, only 51% of ob/gyn residency programs reported that abortion training was routine, where residents must opt out of training rather than opt in. Now 64% of programs offer routine training. The number of programs reporting optional or unavailable training decreased since the last survey.

This increase could be influenced by new residency training guidelines; outreach by the Ryan Residency Program, which helps ob/gyn departments integrate abortion training; increased faculty expertise; and a heightened awareness among a new generation of providers of their role in providing access to safe abortion care.

There were still significant gaps. For example, some programs only offered medication abortion training for early pregnancy loss, meaning that residents wouldn’t gain experience in options counseling for and management of unintended pregnancy. Training also varied by geography. Programs in the South were less likely to have abortion training than in other regions.

While this increase is encouraging, many residents are still graduating without sufficient training to provide abortions for any indication. Routine training increases the odds that graduates will provide comprehensive care of women’s reproductive health needs and integrate abortion in their practices.