The Medical Community’s Hidden Abortion-Training War
In the late 1990s, when Eisenberg was a medical student, abortion-rights activists around the country were worrying about what they called the “graying of the abortion provider.” The obstetrician/gynecologists who had done their training in the sixties and seventies—who had seen the “septic tanks,” wards in big city hospitals reserved for women suffering from septicemia after having illegal abortions—were beginning to retire, and those who would replace them didn’t have adequate training to provide abortions. The pro-life movement of the ’90s, with its clinic bombings and screaming protestors, had successfully scared away many of the medical students and residents who might otherwise have sought out training. And worryingly, 20 years after Roe vs. Wade, only 12 percent of OB-GYN programs taught abortion techniques.
Medical Students for Choice, founded by a student named Jody Steinauer in 1993, helped to change that. “Medical Students for Choice started in an environment where medical students became aware of this gross lack in their education, in an environment where there were almost no available mentors,” Lois Backus, the executive director of MSFC, told The Daily Beast. “In the over 20 years that we’ve been here, MSFC has directly been responsible for the growth of a robust community of mentors and teachers as well as a growth in the respect with which abortion care education is viewed.”
Other players include the Ryan Residency, a national program based at UCSF that brings family planning curricula to OB-GYN residencies around the country. Since its establishment in 1999, it has helped establish abortion training programs at more than 50 medical schools in the U.S. and Canada. The Family Planning Fellowship, also run out of UCSF, offers residents two years of post-graduate clinical training in pregnancy termination, contraception, and other family planning techniques. Both programs are financed by a single anonymous donor, rumored to be the Buffett Foundation.