June 19, 2024

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Murphy Discusses Consequences Of Abortion Bans On Medical Training, Implications For Reproductive Health Two Years After The Dobbs Decision

6 min read

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Tuesday spoke at a U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on the impact of abortion bans on healthcare access across the country. In his questions to Dr. Nisha Verma, Fellow at Georgia’s Physicians for Reproductive Health, Dr. Allison Linton, Chief Medical Officer at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, and Destiny Lopez, acting co-CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, Murphy expressed concerns about the risk of losing lifesaving reproductive healthcare protections for women and families in Connecticut. He also discussed the widespread impact of abortion bans on the training of future medical professionals and the impact on the healthcare workforce in Connecticut and across the country.

Murphy highlighted the consequences of Republican-led efforts to restrict reproductive freedoms and emphasized the risks posed to women and families in Connecticut: “In Connecticut, we often hear from our physicians that we should not labor under the belief that there are safe states. Connecticut is a state today that protects the right to full reproductive healthcare for women and for families. But we know what the agenda is. We know that the agenda of Republicans in the Senate and in Congress is to pass a national abortion ban, and we are potentially months or years away from losing those protections in Connecticut.”

Murphy questioned the witnesses about the impact of abortion bans on medical training: “But the doctors in my state tell me that this myth of ‘the safe state’ is also due to the fact that the bans that are being passed in states that aren’t Connecticut are fundamentally changing the practice of medicine and medical knowledge in the United States…What does it mean that we now have a growing number of states that are not training physicians in the suite of services related to pregnancy loss? What does it mean that we have physicians today that are emerging from education in those states that potentially do not have the full scope of training on how to manage medical challenges like miscarriages, or complications, such as infections or hemorrhaging, that could stem from pregnancy loss? This seems like a significant challenge for our country. How is medical education changing when you have so many residents and medical students who are simply not getting the same kind of comprehensive education around reproductive healthcare?”

Murphy pointed to a growing workforce crisis spurred by abortion bans across the country: “In states that have passed these abortion bans, they have seen a 10% decline in applications for OBGYN residencies. And we’re not seeing a 10% increase in our states, in part because we have a set number of residency slots—that’s not going to change overnight. And so, the net effect here, at a moment when we were already desperate for more individuals to go into this care, seems to be a doubling down of a workforce crisis that is going to affect every woman and every family across this country, no matter which state you live in.”

A full transcript of his remarks can be found below:

MURPHY: “Thank you Senator Murray, thank you all for being here today, for your testimony. In Connecticut, we often hear from our physicians that we should not labor under the belief that there are safe states. Connecticut is a state today that protects the right to full reproductive healthcare for women and for families. But we know what the agenda is. We know that the agenda of Republicans in the Senate and in Congress is to pass a national abortion ban, and we are potentially months or years away from losing those protections in Connecticut.

“But the doctors in my state tell me that this myth of the safe state is also due to the fact that the bans that are being passed in states that aren’t Connecticut are fundamentally changing the practice of medicine and medical knowledge in the United States. So, Senator Sanders started to explore, I think, this really important issue, but I wanted to build on his questioning.

“I think I have two questions to ask, and maybe I’ll pose the first question to Dr. Verma and Dr. Linton. What does it mean that we now have a growing number of states that are not training physicians in the suite of services related to pregnancy loss? What does it mean that we have physicians today that are emerging from education in those states that potentially do not have the full scope of training on how to manage medical challenges like miscarriages, or complications, such as infections or hemorrhaging, that could stem from pregnancy loss? This seems like a significant challenge for our country. How is medical education changing when you have so many residents and medical students who are simply not getting the same kind of comprehensive education around reproductive healthcare?”

VERMA: “Thank you for that question. Over 50% of OBGYN residencies are in states that have enacted bans or very restrictive abortion laws, and that’s absolutely affecting resident training and medical student training. I think it’s important to highlight here that it’s the same procedures, the same medications, that we use when we’re providing abortion care that we also use when someone comes in experiencing a miscarriage or experiencing a pregnancy loss. And so it’s very concerning that more and more doctors are not going to be able to provide all options for care to someone who comes in, for example, at 14 weeks bleeding after breaking their water and is sick and needs care. And so I absolutely think this is going to affect the ability for people to get all types of care across the country. It’s particularly going to affect women in rural areas in certain parts of the country, and I think that’s really devastating when we’re already experiencing such a healthcare crisis and maternal mortality crisis.”

MURPHY: “Dr. Linton?”

LINTON: “I agree with Dr. Verma. I will say immediately after the Dobbs decision there are certain requirements that trainees have to achieve, or things that they have to learn in order to satisfy the requirements of residency training, specifically in OBGYN. And I can tell you that in the immediate aftermath of Dobbs, trying to find places for those learners to go and receive that training was incredibly difficult. As you mentioned [when you referred to] safe states, or haven states, not only are these states being asked to take care of an influx of patients, we are also asking them to take care of an influx of learners. And all of that is just being compounded and compounded. So I agree with Dr. Verma, I am concerned about the future of the ability of our workforce to be able to care for patients in a variety of settings.”

MURPHY: “Well, Ms. Lopez, let me ask you that question about the broader workforce challenge, because our state reports that we are seeing an influx of individuals for training. But what we also know is that in states that have passed these abortion bans, they have seen a 10% decline in applications for OBGYN residencies. And we’re not seeing a 10% increase in our states, in part because we have a set number of residency slots—that’s not going to change overnight. And so, the net effect here, at a moment when we were already desperate for more individuals to go into this care, seems to be a doubling down of a workforce crisis that is going to affect every woman and every family across this country, no matter which state you live in.”

LOPEZ: “Absolutely. Thanks, Senator, for that question. Absolutely. And these folks are not just providing abortion care, right? They are providing the full range of reproductive care, which means that if you are seeking prenatal care, or contraception, or IVF, or any of a number of reproductive care options, you will not have those providers available. We already have maternity care deserts around this country—those will only increase as well. And I think it also forces doctors to think about, do they want to risk criminalization for providing this standard medical care, this basic medical care?”

MURPHY: “Thank you.”

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