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Where Abortion is Illegal…Do Providers Matter?

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By Lois V. Backus, Executive Director of MSFC

In the US, recently passed abortion bans in 9 states have finally awakened the national press and the general public to the dire threat facing legal abortion. For those of us who have struggled for decades to provide safe abortions in an increasingly restrictive legal environment, these recent developments came as no surprise, but a huge amount of regret. An enormous amount of passion and hard work has gone into the nationwide effort to prevent this from happening…but here we are.

As we look toward the day when the conservative majority in the US Supreme Court overturns legal abortion in the US, Medical Students for Choice has given a great deal of thought to whether, and in what ways, providers of abortion will matter within our healthcare system. As we work to encourage and support new providers, how will this dramatically changed legal environment affect our work and the future work of our committed young members?

Over the past decade, MSFC has learned a great deal from our members in Africa, most of whom are advocating for abortion training and expanded education in family planning in low resource settings where abortion is either highly restricted or illegal. Our passionate members in countries like Rwanda, Uganda, and Malawi have worked courageously to bring opportunities to their schools that enable their fellow students to develop skills and knowledge in abortion techniques while at the same time working within their communities to liberalize abortion laws and expand access to safe care. Empowering medical professionals with a commitment to enhancing reproductive safety and giving them concrete skills that directly improves care for pregnant persons saves lives following an unsafe abortion while simultaneously making it more likely that they will have the medical help they need to prevent pregnancies.

As we see “abortion deserts” expand in the US, US medical students will have a similar challenge. Our partners in the Reproductive Rights movement can’t do it all – today there are 20 week abortion bans already in effect in some states and almost continual efforts to pass bans earlier in gestation. The ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and many other legal advocacy organizations work to counter all these restrictions, but of course, they can’t win them all. Where we lose access, we need good, committed, and skilled medical professionals to ensure that those harmed by these restrictions will have the best medical care that our medical system can provide. Lives depend on it.

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