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Abortion education: What are future physicians learning in medical school?

Contraception 2023 September 19
OBJECTIVES: The last nationwide evaluation of abortion education in undergraduate medical schools was conducted by Espey et. al. more than 15 years ago. To better understand what medical schools are teaching medical students about abortion care, we conducted a brief assessment of abortion education and training at U.S. medical schools.

STUDY DESIGN: In April 2019, the study team emailed a three-item survey to the Obstetrics & Gynecology clerkship directors at AAMC-accredited U.S. allopathic medical schools (n=143). The multiple-choice survey assessed the availability and type of reproductive health education students have during their pre-clinical and clinical experiences.

RESULTS: Ninety-one (64%) medical schools responded. Fifty-four (59%) schools reported abortion education as part of their pre-clinical curriculum, with 26 (29%) dedicating at least one lecture to abortion education. Sixty-seven (74%) institutions provided a clinical abortion experience for students, with 24 (26%) indicating students had to arrange participation on their own. Nine programs (10%) reported offering no formal abortion education.

CONCLUSIONS: While the availability of abortion education has increased since the last nationwide survey in 2005, discrepancies in the education offered persist, and many medical students remain without access to this training.

IMPLICATIONS: Although abortion plays an essential role in women's health services, discrepancies in training opportunities limit abortion education in US medical schools. Gaps in the education of medical students may have downstream effects on the availability of doctors who are trained in providing medically-safe abortions.

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