As a result of this insufficient gynecological training, experts warn, a generation of doctors will be ill-equipped to meet their patients’ needs. And across the country, maternal-care deserts will likely expand, as graduating medical students and residents avoid abortion-restricted states.

More than 30,000 medical students are training in states with abortion bans. Another 1,400 OB-GYN residents, who are required to receive abortion training as part of their specialty, are studying in states where abortion is banned or severely restricted.

“There’s a concern that in states with these restrictions, students are simply not getting enough training and exposure,” said Jody Steinauer, an OB-GYN, medical educator and director of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco. “There’s really a worry that if this continues, you’re going to be training a large group of OB-GYNs who can’t provide patient-centered, evidence-based care, no matter where they practice.”

A related concern: Fewer medical students will choose to become OB-GYNs at all, fearing lawsuits or criminal prosecution. Figures show that OB-GYN residency applications are down across the country, but programs in states with abortion bans saw the biggest drops. Application rates for family medicine programs experienced a similar decline.

Abortion is currently banned in 14 states. All offer a narrow exception to this blanket prohibition when the mother’s life is at risk and a few of these states allow abortions in cases of rape or incest. But doctors say guidance on maternal health exceptions remains unclear, leaving physicians vulnerable to potential prosecution when treating patients.

“Students are seeing us struggle with this stuff and they’re like, ‘Yeah, why would I stay here for this?’” said Amy Kelley, a Sioux Falls OB-GYN and clinical associate professor at the University of South Dakota, a state where doctors can face up to two years in prison for violating the state’s ban.

These developments are particularly worrisome in South Dakota and other rural states that are already struggling to recruit and retain maternal healthcare providers. More than half of the state’s counties have no OB-GYNs, and rural South Dakotans with high-risk pregnancies often have no choice but travel to Sioux Falls for specialty care.

Read the full article about abortion bans impact OBGYN medical training by Sara Hutchinson at The Hechinger Report.