The Abortion Training Taboo: Will Texas Have Enough Doctors Who Can Perform The Procedure?

Professors of obstetrics and gynecology in Texas are struggling to teach new doctors about abortion.

By Carrie FeibelJune 21, 2016 9:30 am

From Houston Public Media: This story delves into the specifics of training, explaining why a doctor who knows how to perform a dilation and curettage procedure (the foundation of abortion technique) may still not be competent to perform elective abortions in Texas – and why that matters. 

Abortion is one of the more common procedures performed in the U.S., more common even than appendectomies. But as clinics in Texas close, learning to do them is getting harder for the doctors training in obstetrics and gynecology, known as residents.

“There are places in Texas where there are ob-gyn residents who can’t get anywhere to be trained,” said a senior doctor at one Texas clinic where ob-gyns residents can still come to learn how to do abortions. The doctor asked not to be named to avoid backlash from anti-abortion groups and politicians.

Clinics have closed recently in Lubbock, Odessa, and other Texas cities. But the professor’s clinic can’t take up the slack.

“We’ve been approached by many different residency programs about the ability to train their residents,” she said. “Unfortunately, we just don’t have the capability to train everyone.”

The doctor was spending the afternoon at the clinic, supervising a third-year resident. The resident agreed to be identified by her middle name, Jane.

During her four years of residency, Jane spent about a month doing rotations at this clinic. The experience improved her medical skills, she said, but also gave her a new political perspective on what it means to be a doctor.

“It makes it even more obvious how important it is for women to have access to abortions,” she said.

The rotation made her more committed to providing abortions throughout her career.

“If I think a woman needs access and I have the skills to provide access, I should,” she said.

Jane listened as the senior doctor prepared her for the next patient: “She’s 21 years old and this is her first pregnancy. She is at about 8 weeks today. Do you have any questions about what we’re going to be doing or the procedure?”

Later, I asked the professor if it’s hard to teach abortion. She says a first-trimester abortion is not a complex procedure, and is actually the same thing as a dilation and curettage, or “D and C.”

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