As President Trump’s first 100 days in office approaches, Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) is taking stock of the new threats we’re facing and how we can use our strengths to counter those threats in the years to come. One of our greatest strengths is our ability to change to meet new environmental challenges while keeping a razor sharp focus on achieving our mission of creating tomorrow’s abortion providers and pro-choice physicians!
MSFC thrives on change. Our thousands of medical student members expose tens of thousands of medical students across the globe to abortion education they would otherwise not receive. On a daily, weekly, monthly basis, MSFC members are changing medical education in a measurable way, leading, we hope, to lasting change in the way abortion is addressed within medicine and greater access for those who need abortion care.
We do controversial work within large, established institutions. Promoting opportunities for medical students to learn about abortion care in many medical schools has always been difficult, even risky. And today’s political environment has made those efforts far riskier. MSFC members have faced threats from school administrators, threats from opposing groups on campus, and threats from outside advocacy groups. Fortunately we have learned how to devise strategies and tactics to respond to local threats over 24 years of working within the diverse environments in which our students work. This ability to rapidly roll out a strategy suited to each particular threat is serving us well in these rapidly changing times.
As we strategize for the years to come, here are some of my thoughts:
- It is imperative that we speak out strongly and proudly about our vision of a world in which all physicians are trained to provide and promote access to safe, compassionate abortion care and all people are empowered to make their own reproductive health care decisions, free of stigma, judgment, and barriers. We believe that this vision is achievable.
- The need for fully integrated abortion care and for physicians supportive of this choice across all specialties will become greater in the coming years. MSFC members have a unique opportunity to make extraordinary contributions to the lives of their patients in environments that may become extremely hostile to abortion access.
- We need to start focusing more on the goals of the entire movement while we work toward accomplishing our piece of the vision. At MSFC, we work within a closed and often exclusive environment – medical schools. Educating our members about the diversity of perspectives across our movement is one way that will help our community contribute more meaningfully to the broader movement’s goals.
- MSFC’s approach to making change is inherently long-term. Our focus is four years, eight years, ten years out. We invest in medical students today to create the reproductive health leaders of tomorrow. Today, we know it is imperative to support our partner organizations facing incredible short-term threats while also keeping our attention on 2020 and beyond. It is a difficult balancing act, but one that will be essential to ensuring access to safe abortion worldwide.
For MSFC members, making a difference in people’s lives in the Trump years may mean supporting a patient who wishes to have an abortion in a hospital where those services are not available, testifying before legislators about the devastating impact of abortion restrictions on your patients, or speaking out in the media about the real world impact of the policy changes being put in place. It may also mean simply being a better doctor, colleague, and friend to those who face stigma related to the medical care they provide or the healthcare they choose. All of us have the power to take action and now is the time to do so.
100 days is a moment in time that provides us with a window into what we can expect for the future. We know our work will be harder and that we will face many new barriers to change, but our work has never been easy. Not even half the medical schools in the US include abortion in the classroom curriculum despite the fact that 1 of every 3 women in the US seek an abortion during their childbearing years. We fear that the further restricting of access to abortion in the coming years will lead to devastating health consequences for our patients. We hope that those joining MSFC this year will graduate under a different US administration, but we know that our work will remain relevant far beyond this next four years.