How ob.gyn. programs provide abortion training post Dobbs


When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade abortion rights last year, residency programs and ob.gyn. residents in states that ban or restrict abortions began scrambling to find alternative training sites to fulfill required clinical rotations in the procedure.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires ob.gyn. residents – unless they have a religious or moral exemption – to undergo abortion training to complete their programs. In states with bans or restrictions on family planning services or abortions, resident training must be received at institutions that are out of state.

Some residency programs are just beginning to coordinate out-of-state training, while others are further along in their offerings. There’s no formal matching process, and it remains unclear who will cover the costs of residents training elsewhere for a month.

These uncertainties, along with lack of coordination about malpractice, clinical rotations, and limited faculty, leave some program directors skeptical they’ll be able to keep up with demand for out-of-state slots. They are also wary of harming their own residents’ educational and clinical opportunities.

A 3rd-year ob.gyn. resident, who didn’t want to give her name or residency program for fear of backlash against her home institution, told this news organization that the Catholic-affiliated site is trying to avoid drawing attention to its minimal abortion training in a restrictive Midwest state. She knew after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson she’d have to look outside the program for more complex abortion training.

While she could learn dilation and curettage or other first-trimester or early–second-trimester procedures at the Midwest program, she said she couldn’t learn dilation and evacuation.

A mentor at her program connected her with a residency program at the University of New Mexico, where she recently started a 5-week family planning rotation. She is the first out-of-state resident hosted by UNM. Currently, UNM has six ob.gyn. residents per class year, for a total of 36, and six family planning fellows.

The ob.gyn. resident is staying with a friend at no cost, and her home institution still pays her salary. But she still must pay the mortgage on a home she can’t live in while away and misses being part of a community where she’s built a life over the past 2 years.

“There’s a part of you that’s just angry that you can’t do this for the women ... in your state,” she said. “Unfortunately, there isn’t a formalized program for ob.gyn. residents interested in more advanced training to be matched with a program that has the ability to offer that training. It’s very much a word-of-mouth and who-you-know situation. For people without those connections, it can be difficult to obtain this training unless they are interested in a formal fellowship.”

This year, about 1,500 ob.gyn. residents matched into 280 residency programs, according to the National Residency Matching Program.

obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University’s (OHSU’s) School of Medicine

Dr. Alyssa Colwill

Alyssa Colwill, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University and director of the ob.gyn. Ryan Residency Program at OHSU, estimated that 1,000 ob.gyn. residents per year will seek out-of-state abortion training. The estimate is based on the number of residents in programs in states with restrictions.

The Ryan Program, which began in 1999, helps ob.gyn. residency programs provide training in abortion and contraception care (family planning) as a required rotation.


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