In the Life of Abortion Providers

Who are Abortion providers?

Many different types of clinicians can and do perform abortions. Most abortion providers are typically physicians trained in Obstetrics and Gynecology or Family Medicine. The vast majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester, and more than half of these are performed with a procedure called a vacuum aspiration, which is a required part of all Ob/Gyn residency training. The ACGME is the organization that accredits all residency programs in the United States; while the ACGME requires Ob/Gyn residencies to provide “access to training” in abortion care, many Ob/Gyn residents graduate without actual training in this care. As a consequence of this, among other factors, there are shortages of abortion providers in many places in the U.S., particularly in the South, Midwest, and many rural areas (these areas are often called “abortion deserts” due to the lack of access to care). In order to ameliorate some of this burden, numerous abortion providers travel from their home cities to provide abortion care in areas who have a shortage of providers.

However, abortion is a safe, simple procedure, and other clinicians also train during their residencies or in other ways to administer this care. These clinicians might include Family Medicine physicians, Emergency Medicine physicians, Certified Nurse Midwives, Physician Assistants, and Advanced Practice Nurses. Different states have different laws about what types of providers may provide abortion, but evidence shows that properly trained clinicians can safely perform abortions regardless of their specialty or type of training. Some Ob/Gyns and Family Medicine physicians go further in abortion training, completing fellowships in Family Planning after their residencies, which provides more advanced training in abortion care and complex contraceptive care.

Due to legal restrictions and regulations on abortion services, abortion providers face unique professional and educational challenges. While no one person is representative of all abortion providers, below are some resources that illustrate some of the experiences of abortion providers, the challenges they face, and the immense value of their work: 

Because who doesn’t enjoy a good buzzfeed article:

What does the medical community say about educating future providers?

  • ACOG Committee Opinion: Abortion Training and Education | ACOG | November 1, 2014

    The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports access to abortion care and recommends that all medical students and residents be exposed to abortion care training on an opt-out basis. They suggest that better access to education and training could remedy the shortage of abortion providers in the United States.

So, for those who become abortion providers, what does life look like?

  • The “How Does an Abortion Provider Work?” Edition

    Working (podcast) | | Jacob Brogan | November 22, 2016

    While everyone’s careers and life experiences are different, in this podcast Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper provides a candid and honest perspective on what her life as an abortion provider looks like both personally and professionally. She describes the challenges many abortion providers face due to legal restrictions that make delivering medical care more challenging as well as the personal challenges of working in a field so stigmatized.

And what about the subset of providers who travel to abortion deserts to provide care?

For some reading on just two of the many devoted providers who travel to provide abortion care to patients:

These articles highlight the experiences of two abortion providers who travel from their home states to provide abortion care in Kansas and Texas, respectively, both of which have a dearth of abortion clinics and abortion providers. These two physicians have unique and distinct stories to tell, but both are driven to travel away from their homes and families routinely because of their commitment to quality patient care.

And if you’re more of a documentary person:

  • The Traveling Abortion Doctor | Leah Galant and Maya Cueva | December 20, 2017

    This short documentary follows Dr. Shannon Carr as she travels from her home in New Mexico to provide abortion care in Dallas, Texas after HB2 was enacted, decreasing the number of abortion clinics in Texas to 7 (HB2 has since been overturned by the Supreme Court, but many clinics have been unable to reopen). Dr. Carr shares the challenges of her job and providing care in such a hostile environment.

While many abortion providers are OB/Gyns, very few OB/Gyns are abortion providers:

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