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Thursday, May 24th 2007

To Each Their Own?

A Los Angeles Times piece looks at medical students considering abortion work as obstetricians.

Each spring, the advocacy group Medical Students for Choice brings several hundred students — nearly 90% of them women — to a weekend convention to nudge them into considering abortion work. One of the most effective tools: introducing them to veteran providers.

[Y]oung doctors-in-training have found their own motivation to enter a field that they know will put them at risk of isolation, harassment and hatred. For them, doing abortions is an act of defiance — a way of pushing back against mounting restrictions on a right they’ve taken for granted all their lives.

“It’s like when your big brother says you can’t do something,” [Fourth Year Megan] Lederer said. “That just makes you want to do it even more.”

Abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures in the U.S., terminating about one in four pregnancies, not counting miscarriages. Yet the number of providers has fallen steadily for decades, dropping 37% between 1982 and 2000, the last year a census was taken. (During the same period, the number of abortions fell 17%.)

Coming to terms with doing this as part of your practice must be…tough…

Lederer does not know how she will handle such emotion; the closest she’s come to performing an abortion was suctioning the seeds out of a papaya to learn a first-trimester technique. She may, in the end, restrict her practice to early abortions. But that’s not an easy solution to accept. She can’t see how she could ever justify taking one woman as a patient while turning away another because her pregnancy is a few weeks more advanced.

She also knows that the few doctors who perform late second- and third-trimester abortions are mostly in their 60s or 70s. “Who’s going to do this when they leave? Someone has to,” Lederer said. “I feel in my heart of hearts that it’s the right thing to do.”