In states where abortion is now illegal, medical students like Soto are reconsidering their choices, abandoning their original plans in favor of pursuing training in states where abortion is legal.

“It’s a difficult position to be put in,” said Jessica Flores, a second-year medical student at UTRGV, who comes from the small city of Portland in South Texas and has long dreamed of serving her community as a physician. Now that Texas has made abortion a felony punishable by up to life in prison, she is rethinking her plans.

“Do I pursue my education in a state where I want to be ideally, but it’s going to potentially undercut me and not make me as prepared as a physician for my patients? Or do I leave?” said Flores.

In a post-Roe world, thousands of future doctors now face roadblocks to accessing clinical training in abortion care.  Experts say these new barriers could ultimately limit access not just to abortion, but to all obstetric and gynecological care.

For years, researchers have warned of a growing OB-GYN shortage, especially in rural communities across the country. Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, concern is rising that abortion bans will intensify those shortages by making the path to becoming an OB-GYN more difficult and less appealing.

To become a doctor, students attend four years of medical school, then complete a residency in their chosen specialty. OB-GYN residency programs are required to offer access to training in induced abortion, although students with moral or religious objections are permitted to opt out.

This requirement has been enforced by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education since 1996, and programs unable to meet this standard jeopardize their accreditation status.

But in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, as state legislators across the country move to enact laws banning or severely restricting abortion, direct access to clinical abortion training has disappeared — or is likely to do so — at the home institutions of thousands of medical residents.

Nearly half the country’s future women’s health care providers could be affected. An April 2022 report in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology said 45 percent of all OB-GYN residency programs were in states “certain or likely to ban abortion” with the overturn of Roe. Those programs accounted for 2,638 residents out of 6,007 total.

Read the full article about OB-GYN medical training by Sara Hutchinson at The Hechinger Report.