States that restrict abortion rights may have a tough time caring for pregnant women in the years to come, a new study finds. Here’s why new and old doctors alike are turning away from conservative communities.
States in Control
When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the summer of 2022, they threw arguments over abortion rights back to the states.
That move was applauded by pro-lifers in conservative states because they figured abortion would soon be a thing of the past where they lived.
They Followed Through
And, for the most part, that’s been the trend in the months since.
Many conservative states, like Texas, have enacted various levels of abortion bans.
Ohio Takes Another Path
Several others, including Ohio, have become battlegrounds over reproductive rights.
This fall, Buckeyes will vote on an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee abortion rights remain intact.
Doctors Are Paying Attention
Now, that split is having a heavy influence on where new doctors plan to hang a shingle, according to a new report published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, a respected medical journal.
They’re Almost Done
In a survey conducted by the University of Utah School of Medicine, almost 350 graduating OB-GYNs from 37 states talked about their professional plans.
Having Second Thoughts
Of those respondents, 17% said that the Supreme Court’s decision had caused them to rethink where they wanted to begin their medical careers.
Anti-Abortion Not Aging Well
And eight times as many new doctors who previously planned to practice in conservative states fell into that category than those who planned to practice in abortion-supportive states.
Women Will Suffer
The study’s lead author, Alex Woodcock, said that news likely means that pregnant women will suffer more than ever in states that already lack adequate care in many cases.
An Alarming Trend
Even before Roe v. Wade went by the wayside, a study from the Commonwealth Fund found that maternal death rates were 62% higher in anti-abortion states than in pro-choice states.
They Want to Do It All
Woodcock and others worry that number will only climb as young doctors try to find a place where they can practice everything they’ve learned about medicine throughout their lives.
Not Just Newbies
Dr. Leilah Zahedi-Spung, an OB-GYN from Denver who was not involved with the Utah study, thinks the trend will extend to existing doctors, too.
They’re Leaving in Droves
“We’re going to see medical students and residents and physicians continue to leave these spaces,” she says.
Still Time to Fix It
Woodcock does see one ray of hope in all this – the trend may be reversible.
They Like Waffles
Specifically, several of the medical students who said they had changed their minds about wanting to work in conservative states left an opening to change their minds again.
They Want Guarantees
According to Woodcock, many of the respondents said they’d consider working in conservative states if their hospitals guaranteed legal protection for abortion.
A Progressive Stance
The students also want to see some movement on the political front toward a more progressive stance on abortion.
Tough Choices Ahead
All of that may sound like a tall order for states that have dug deep into their anti-abortion stance.
But they may have to reevaluate that stance if their pregnant women can’t get the care they need.
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