The recent announcement by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities to delay the implementation of a reproductive rights advocacy fellowship has caused statewide conversations about the presence of anti-choice agendas in academic and medical institutions. The fellowship included training at Planned Parenthood and comprehensive abortion procedure education. The university announced the delay of the fellowship following uproar from anti-choice student groups and conservative media sites like Campus Reform, who argued that the fellowship would “promote abortions”(Pioneer Press). Anti-choice groups celebrated the University’s decision to delay the fellowship, but pro-choice student groups and organizations protested the university for letting conservative agendas influence medical education and threaten abortion access and resources. Though the decision to delay the fellowship initially was a cause for concern, the University of Minnesota President Kaler spoke up to clarify the rationale behind the decision; “We felt that the delay – which was a delay not a cancellation – was in order to provide an opportunity to consult with groups that were affected by that decision and have them better understand what it is we were doing. We certainly strongly support the reproductive rights of women and certainly understand the need to teach abortion methods as part of our medical training.”(Pioneer Press).
NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota strongly stands behind medical students and practitioners and their right to receive comprehensive, hands-on and unbiased physician training. The possibility of educational institutions prioritizing anti-choice agendas that prohibit abortion training and therefore a women’s right to safe and accessible abortion is unacceptable. The response from the University of Minnesota and president Kaler sends a strong message that the UMN respects reproductive rights and abortion training and will use the fellowship delay to ensure that there is sustainable educational opportunities provided by the university.
While the response from the UMN was a responsible step towards navigating student anti-choice voices and the necessity of safe and accurate medical abortion training, this strategy to prevent abortion training at universities has been adopted by various anti-choice legislators and organizations across the country. Conservative legislators often attempt to prevent abortion by creating legal requirements that limit medical schools from providing OB-GYN training that meets the national accreditation standards. The result is a national growing shortage of OB-GYNs and abortion providers. In Iowa, following the recently signed into law “Fetal Heartbeat” bill that prohibits abortion after sign of a fetal heartbeat, the University is predicting shortages in OB- GYN graduates. Because of the depth of the restrictions, the University of Iowa OB-GYN residency program would be out of compliance with the requirements provided by the American Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which mandates that student be allowed a range of training in abortion procedures(USN). The implications of the Fetal heartbeat Bill affect not only women across the state but students attempting to receive a well-rounded medical education.
The efforts of Republicans in Iowa to stop abortion were wide-ranging but other states such as Wisconsin and Arizona have introduced more specific pieces of legislation to prohibit abortion training in Universities. Last year, Republicans In Wisconsin introduced a bill that prohibited state-funded universities from providing abortion training for resident students(Westcott). Arizona College of Medicine has banned abortion at its facility since 1976. Currently, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas have laws that limit the medical training for students at public universities in order to prevent abortion(Westcott).
The consequence of state interference in medical student training are severe. Not only is there a growing shortage of OB-GYNs in the U.S which is detrimental for women and families but as a precedent, allowing anti-choice agendas in schools is unacceptable. Legislators have no business in attempting to regulate what can and cannot be taught to students, especially in an attempt to limit medical education because of conservative values that harm potential patients seeking medical services. Though the University of Minnesota was successful in navigating this attack on the medical integrity of OB-GYN and abortion physician students, it’s clear that this strategy will continue to be used to push anti-choice actions onto institutions. Universities need to provide unbiased, medically based learning opportunities for student not be used as a platform to promote anti-choice conservative agendas.
Associated Press. “UMN Delays Medical School Fellowship after Abortion Controversy.” Twin Cities Pioneer Press , Twin Cities, 24 May 2018, www.twincities.com/2018/05/23/umn-delays-medical-school-fellowship-after-abortion-controversy/.
Gordon, Mara. “Why Doctors Who Want Abortion Training Can’t Always Find It.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 17 June 2015, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/06/learning-abortion-in-medical-school/395075/.
Westcott, Lucy. “What Wisconsin’s Insane Abortion Bill Could Mean For Women’s Health.” POPSUGAR Tech, 2 Sept. 2017, www.popsugar.com/news/Wisconsin-Bill-Ban-Abortion-Training-43766484.