Registered nurse Martha Paynter believes many doctors and nurses end up objecting because they don’t feel competent in performing, and sometimes even discussing, abortion. So, in fall 2020, she launched a first-of-its-kind abortion course at Dalhousie University designed to empower students in medicine, nursing and social work to handle abortion conversations themselves. “One of the issues with abortion education is that there isn’t necessarily the willingness to do this work. It’s just traditionally excluded from most of the health professional programs, and that exclusion is out of sync with the reality of the acceptability of abortion in Canada,” says Paynter, adding that sex education in general is also “not a routinized part of health professional education.”
Paynter’s class is an exception right now, though Medical Students for Choice, which lobbies for expanded education on reproductive health care including abortion, now has chapters in every Canadian medical school. The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada did not respond to a request for more information on what students are taught regarding abortion, Mifegymiso or conscientious objection.
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