Access to Abortion: Silent Threats and Shady State Deals

This week, the Washington Post ran a great piece discussing some of the barriers faced by medical students who would like to (or might just be considering) become abortion providers. Abortion’s Stigma Affects Doctors’ Training and Choices offers us a very brief summary of some of the problems medical students have in getting even the most basic training on abortion services.

Through interviews with medical students and current abortion providers, the article highlights problems with stigma, threats–to personal safety, reputation, family, etc.–and an ever decreasing number of programs that teach abortion procedures. All of these, they note, leads to fewer and fewer qualified professionals who are willing to provide abortions.

About three pages into the piece, they point out that the practice of one of the providers is located “across the street from the state’s medical school, where abortion is not taught.” Well, we might think, it is Mississippi, after all. They have some of the most restrictive abortion policies in the country. But, alas, my friends, this is a huge problem all over the country.

My home state, Arizona, has the same problem. In 1974, the Arizona State Legislature cut a shady deal with the University of Arizona to pass an education bill that netted the U $5.5 MILLION to build a nice new football stadium. The trade off? Only that the University Medical Center–one of the top hospitals in the country–would not ever perform abortions again. There is a small exception for dangers to the life of the mother, but we all know how that works. Not only that, the stadium deal also included a restriction on the University of Arizona College of Medicine–one of the top medical schools in the country, at one of the most important research institutions in the country–would not teach abortion procedures. Not even to teach medical students how to recognize the signs of botched abortions or to teach them to treat complications from abortions performed elsewhere!

Arizona students are given the opportunity to train at a local Planned Parenthood, should they so desire. But learning abortion procedures is an “elective.” A procedure, according to the Washington Post, that is one of the most performed medical services in the country. This means that medical professionals we depend on are not trained in the procedure we are most likely to have in our lifetime.

All because some “pro-life” asshat in the Arizona Legislature decided–purposefully–to tack an anti-abortion provision onto a bill that funded the school’s athletic facilities. Seriously people. I have a husband that loves football, so I am used to putting that before some of the things I want. But not even he would say it is OK to jeopardize my health so that the school can have a better stadium!

For more on the UA abortion deal, click on over to the Tucson Weekly page!


  1. I can see some merit to letting students opt-out of learning how to perform abortion procedures, but this system isn’t opt-out, it requires students to opt-in to training, which given how tight a med student’s schedule is already seems horrifically unfair. Also, students shouldn’t have any option when it comes to learning how to treat and detect botched abortions, didn’t we learn anything from the 50′s? Do we need to go back to having septic wards because nobody knows how to deal with these issues?

    Also as far as the Arizona deal goes, check out this excerpt from the Tucson Weekly page:

    “In a 2000 story in the Tucson Citizen, the former legislator who sponsored the bill, Jim Skelly, is quoted as saying that he deliberately added the rider to a bill the university desperately wanted.

    “And it worked,” he’s quoted as saying. “The university’s ideology sure went down the drain when it came to expanding the sports arena, now didn’t it?”"

    That’s just despicable, it makes me so angry I can’t even think of something coherent to say about it.

  2. Yeah, this is a huge issue, because when doctors like Carhart and Hern retire, there will be no one left who is qualified to perform late abortions. As for abortion in general, the same logic holds true. What good is legal access if there is no one to provide the service?

    And eff the U of A.

  3. Does NARAL or NAF have some stats on medical schools and restrictive laws on teaching med students how to perform abortions? I’d be interested to see that.

    During the brief 20 minutes I was considering being a doctor, I looked through some women’s health textbooks and most of them had between a paragraph and two pages on abortion. Some coverage for one of the most common surgeries in the country.

Speak Your Mind