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Impact of Utah Abortion Ban: Number of OBG-YNs Studying and Working in Utah May Fall

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With the new abortion restrictions in Utah, there are concerns about how it will affect the training of OB-GYNs and how many of them will eventually want to practice in the state.

University of Utah Health has one of the above OB/GYN residency programs in the West with Doximity, an online network of medical professionals, ranked third in terms of reputation.

But Utah’s abortion law would put the university’s OB/GYN program “at risk,” said David Turok, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University and a licensed OB/GYN.

“We’ve had an incredible program for a very long time,” Turok said.

According to Turok, medical students who want to pursue a career in this field want to experience the full range of training and care, and “when that’s restricted, the number and quality of resident applicants is reduced.”

Attracting and retaining residents depends on the number of physicians working in the state like 55% of residents stay where they trained, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

OB/GYNs are especially in demand in Utah, where they are available the fifth highest birth rate in the country with 64.1 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. Compared to other cities in the country, Salt Lake City is in the second largest risk of OB/GYN shortagesaccording to a Doximity study.

Turok said obstetrician-gynecologists must be competent in abortion procedures because the same methods and drugs are used to treat non-viable pregnancies in the event of miscarriage.

“People need to learn how to safely evacuate the uterus,” Turok said.

Forty-four percent of obstetrics-gynecology programs in the US are in states that will or may introduce strict abortion laws, according to Bloomberg Law.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, trigger law in Utah the ban on abortion came into force with some exceptions. The law was temporarily suspended ahead of a July 11 hearing after Planned Parenthood of Utah filed a lawsuit challenging it.

If the termination of pregnancy law is repealed, abortions in Utah would be allowed only in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, serious fetal abnormalities, and cases of rape and incest that have been reported to the police.

Texas is an example of local abortion restrictions that deter medical students from applying to OB-GYN programs, Turok said. In September, Texas passed a ban on six-week abortions which then dissuaded some students from applying to OB/GYN programs in the state, according to Fortune.

Heather Cummins, a student at the University of Utah School of Medicine, said she entered medical school with the dream of completing an OB/GYN residency in Utah. Specifically, Cummins said she had hoped to work for Planned Parenthood in Utah, but now she doesn’t know if her “goals will ever come true.”

“It’s absolutely concerning that this trigger law is in place that limits what I think is a very important area of ​​practice for OB-GYNs that allows them to practice all aspects of their training,” Cummins said.

Accredited programs are required by the Accreditation Council for Postgraduate Medical Education to ensure routine access to abortion training. Some students are allowed to waive religious or moral objections.

After the Supreme Court ruled, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education proposed an adjustment to the requirement that programs provide access to training in jurisdictions without legal restrictions on abortion.

Despite the Utah law, Cummins said the OB/GYN program at the University of Utah is still one of her top choices. She said she’s sure the leaders of this program are committed to ensuring that residents receive adequate training.

“What’s unfortunate is the fact that they have to go to such lengths to ensure (residents are educated),” Cummins said. “It only complicates things. This puts even more strain on the entire system.”

Turok said the department is working to get residents “the absolute best and most comprehensive training we can.”

That training can include modeling and maximizing opportunities for residents to care for people experiencing miscarriages and nonviable pregnancies, Turok said.

Courtney Kenyon, a second-year US medical student, said the new law hasn’t stopped her from wanting to complete an internship and eventually practice in Utah.

For her, leaving Utah to practice elsewhere would mean “abandoning patients” in Utah who need health care professionals willing to advocate for them and their bodily autonomy.

She added that leaving the state would only exacerbate the injustice she believes patients will face.

“The ultimate goal of a career in medicine for me is not just to perform procedures,” Kenyon said. “It’s about improving people’s lives and helping them through some of the most difficult and vulnerable moments of their lives, regardless of the political landscape.”

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