She had joined Medical Students for Choice, an abortion education group with chapters on 135 U.S. campuses, as soon as she arrived at Maryland. The nation’s abortion doctors were graying, and unless a new generation took their place, the right to abortion might be rendered meaningless. Lesley imagined herself being part of that new generation. But would her support for abortion translate into action?
“I won’t know until I’m faced with doing it, but I think I would absolutely be able to provide [abortions],” she said. “It’s walk the walk, instead of talk the talk. I want my actions to be consistent with my words.”
How medical students choose to become abortion providers is in some ways no different from how they choose to become cardiac surgeons or pediatric neurologists. They explore the specialty and test themselves in it, finding some connection to a patient or a mentor that ignites their passion. Except for one difference: Medical students must explore abortion largely on their own.
Thirty-five years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade, any mention of abortion is rare in the first three or four years of medical school, when students must zero in on a specialty and eventually apply for residency training. Even in Maryland, where about 61 percent of voters approved a referendum guaranteeing abortion in 1992 and which has the fourth-highest abortion rate in the country, abortion is not taught in any formal lectures at the state’s flagship medical school. The subject is viewed as too controversial, despite the fact that, according to the nonprofit National Center for Health Statistics, abortion remains among the most common surgical procedures for reproductive-age women. Nevertheless, many people, including some of Lesley’s friends, believe abortion is the murder of an unborn child and should not be legal, much less taught to future doctors.
Make sure to read the whole damn thing. As Lauren aptly points out, “a lack of doctors willing and able to perform the procedure will render the right to abortion meaningless.” And, as previously noted, the situation isn’t much better here in the Great White North.