Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Roundtable

Last week, MSFC members Danna Ghafir and Natalie Givens joined medical and undergraduate students across the country to participate in a virtual roundtable discussion with the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra. The roundtable on reproductive health and justice was organized to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision and offer an opportunity for student advocates to share their experiences and ask the Secretary questions.

Danna and Natalie are medical students in restrictive states Texas and Georgia. Their experiences with a lack of access to abortion training were amplified by similar stories from the medical students who attended the roundtable. Danna shared that in Texas, abortion education has been highly variable between medical schools. As an Experienced Student Leader for Texas chapters, Danna engages with chapter leaders across the state to understand the status of abortion education at their schools. Some medical schools offer lectures dedicated to abortion and complex contraception, the existence of which is often the result of student-driven curriculum reform efforts made possible with the support of MSFC resources. Meanwhile, other schools have little to no mention of abortion care in their didactic curricula, and these students rely on external learning opportunities, like MSFC’s virtual lectures and the Reproductive Health Externship program offering training in other states.  

Natalie shared with the Secretary her experience as a medical student in Georgia, where abortion is banned after detection of embryonic cardiac activity, which usually occurs around 6 weeks gestational age. Her school gave a lecture on abortion care during her didactic years. To get more experience, Natalie recently asked to shadow an abortion provider who helped at an MSFC event. The provider declined, saying that because of the current Georgia law, abortion patients have much more fear, and having a medical student shadowing in the room could erode the patient’s trust in such a vulnerable situation. Medical students from restrictive states shared stories similar to Natalie’s, expressing their concern that states with restrictive abortion laws have, on average, higher maternal mortality rates and fewer maternity care providers1, yet medical students are disincentivized to pursue OB-GYN residency training in these states due to potential limitations in their education. 

The spectrum of educational opportunities around abortion care in US medical schools is broad and unstandardized. Currently, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) does not include any requirements for abortion education or training in their curriculum standards. According to their website, “The LCME is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and WFME as the notable authority for the accreditation of medical education programs leading to the MD degree.” When asked if the Department of Health and Human Services is collaborating with the Department of Education to standardize abortion education and training in medical schools nationwide, the Secretary responded that they do not currently collaborate with the DoE on this matter, but that they recognize the concerns students brought up regarding this issue. A collaborative effort between the two regulatory bodies could ensure that all medical students have access to the information required to understand evidence-based abortion care practices, and we call on both departments to address this pressing concern.

MSFC has an ongoing petition to the LCME to include abortion training in Undergraduate Medical Education.  An excerpt of the petition is below:

As medical students and trainees, we are asking the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) to include abortion learning objectives and options counseling within the accreditation requirements of each medical school. Currently, the LCME requires that medical school curricula include each organ system, each phase of the human life cycle, continuity of care, and preventive, acute, chronic, rehabilitative, and end-of-life care; however, it does not include any reference to abortion training. 

 As a medical community and medical education training community, it is the responsibility of the LCME to hold medical schools accountable for providing comprehensive and patient-centered medical education. Healthcare is paramount over any political agenda, and the LCME should be able to defend medical education against policies that endanger the health of our patients.

We were very thankful to be invited to attend the roundtable and have the opportunity to share our experiences with Secretary Becerra and HHS staff members. The discussion ended with Secretary Becerra giving heartfelt thanks to all medical students and undergraduate reproductive health advocates in attendance for their perseverance and vulnerability in sharing their stories.


Eugene Declercq et al., The U.S. Maternal Health Divide: The Limited Maternal Health Services and Worse Outcomes of States Proposing New Abortion Restrictions (Commonwealth Fund, Dec. 2022).