Physicians work to bring abortion into the mainstream

If young doctors succeed in making abortion part of mainstream medicine, the practice could lose its outsider status, the New York Times reports.
Despite OB-GYNs' optimistic predictions that freestanding clinics would not be needed after the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, many obstetricians backed away from doing abortions. To fill the void, feminist activists stepped in to create standalone clinics. In 1973, hospitals comprised 80 percent of U.S. abortion facilities. By 1996, 90 percent of abortions were performed in clinics. Being a pro-choice doctor meant you referred your patients to a clinic rather than doing abortions in your office, according to the Times.
But a quiet counteroffensive has been in the making, as abortion-rights advocates work to demarginalize abortion by putting the procedure back within mainstream medicine via curricular changes, residency programs and fellowships at university hospitals. They hope that more doctors will make abortion a part of their practices and a seamless part of healthcare for women.
"The '90s were about getting abortion back into residency training and medical schools," Jody Steinauer, an OB-GYN professor at the University of California at San Francisco, told the Times. "Now it's about getting abortion into our practices."
In the early 1990s, Steinauer took a year off from med school to start a group, Medical Students for Choice, which pushed to add lectures about abortion to the medical school curriculum. The group, which now has 10,000 members and chapters around the country, later pushed to make abortion training a requirement for all OB-GYN residency programs. About half of the programs now do and another 40 percent offer it as an elective.
In order to practice abortion in mainstream medicine, compromises seem to be a part of the story. When one OB-GYN learned that some of the nurses at a primary-care clinic opposed abortion, she tried to meet them halfway by doing abortions only up to nine weeks. That way, no one would have to deal with recognizable fetal parts. Another OB-GYN came to an agreement with a nurse who adamantly opposed abortion. Once she took down the name and number of a patient who wanted an abortion, she had nothing more to do with the case. He handles scheduling, counseling, care and billing.
The people who are part of the new vanguard don't see themselves as "abortion doctors," according to the Times. The procedure is just part of a broader medical practice that involves seeing patients for general gynecology or primary-care visits, and being on call on the labor and delivery floor.
To learn more:
- read the New York Times article  

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