Despite the fact that abortion is one of the most common and safest surgical procedures,1 abortion training is not a standard component of the core curriculum in most medical schools across the United States. In fact, only 5% of all abortions in the United States are provided in hospitals,2 where most medical students and residents are trained. According to a growing body of information collected by Medical Students for Choice (MSFC):
- 2/3 of the medical students in the United States spend less than 30 minutes of class time on all aspects of abortion;
- only one out of five medical schools includes basic options counseling education in their curriculum; and
- both infertility and Viagra receive more required class time - on average - than contraception or abortion.
There are specific support and training resources for medical students seeking education and experience in abortion and related comprehensive, reproductive health care.
Many medical students interested in obtaining abortion training have had the opportunity to participate in elective rotations and clerkships with NAF member clinics and providers. These opportunities can provide medical students with exposure to and training not only in pregnancy options counseling, abortion procedures, and post-abortion care, but also in a range of other reproductive health services. These include pelvic exams, pap smears, breast exams, colposcopy, contraception, STI counseling and testing, and ultrasound. Find an abortion training opportunity near you
Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) was established in 1993 by students working with NAF who were concerned about the national shortage of abortion providers, the lack of abortion education in medical schools and residency programs, and escalating violence against providers. MSFC's 7000 student and resident members are working today to make reproductive health care, including abortion, a part of standard medical education and residency training.
Their efforts and programs include: student organizing; curriculum reform; annual meetings and regional conferences; leadership training; and funding for reproductive health externships. For more information visit Medical Students for Choice.
On October 23, 1998, an anti-choice terrorist shot and killed Dr. Barnett A. Slepian, an abortion provider in Buffalo, New York. In the wake of his murder, Mrs. Slepian requested that donations be made to the Pro-Choice Network of Western New York. The outpouring in response to Dr. Slepian's tragic murder inspired the Pro-Choice Network to collaborate with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to establish a fund which would not only honor his memory, but would also have a positive impact on reproductive choice.
The Dr. Barnett A. Slepian Memorial Fund makes training grants to medical students, residents and healthcare professionals who are committed to include abortion in their medical practice, view the option of abortion as an integral part of comprehensive care for women, and refuse to allow political extremists to dictate patient care.
To learn more information about the Dr. Barnett A. Slepian Memorial Fund and to submit an application, go to
pcnwny.com and click on 'Dr. Slepian.'
Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (PRCH) has collaborated with Medical Students for Choice to form the Physician-Student Support Network (PSSN) to support pro-choice medical students and residents. Through the PSSN collaboration, pro-choice PRCH members have the opportunity to share a wide range of experiences in reproductive health and offer students a chance to ask questions about professional practice, training and patient care. This diversity of perspectives fuels a dialogue providing medical students with various models of how to be active as pro-choice physicians. Visit PRCH for more information.
The Reproductive Health Model Curriculum: Originally developed by the American Medical Women's Association/ Reproductive Health Initiative and now managed by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP), the Reproductive Health Model Curriculum is used in fourth-year electives in medical schools throughout the country. The Curriculum covers topics such as abortion, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, primary care for infertility, and psychosocial factors including physician/patient communication. The Curriculum is available for download free of charge on ARHP's website: www.arhp.org/curriculum. A listing of Curriculum electives at U.S. medical schools is available at www.arhp.org/electives.For more information or to find out how you can encourage your administration to incorporate reproductive health topics in your school's curriculum, contact ARHP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, A Medical Student's Guide to Improving Reproductive Health Curricula (PDF file, 585K) is a resource to assist medical students interested in reforming their school's curriculum. This publication was originally produced by AMWA and Medical Students for Choice and is now a joint publication of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) and Medical Students for Choice (MSFC). Please follow the link above to access this guide online. For more information or for assistance with curriculum reform, contact ARHP at email@example.com or MSFC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Henshaw SK, Unintended pregnancy in the United States, Family Planning Perspectives, 1998, 30(1):24-29 & 46.
- Finer LB and Henshaw SK, Abortion incidence and services in the United States in 2000, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2003, 35(1):6-15.