19 July 2010

Bringing Abortion Back to the Doctor's Office

After last week's revelation that the Obama administration is banning abortion coverage for women in "high-risk" insurance pools, a little good news on the reproductive rights front was much needed. This weekend, the New York Times Magazine gave it to us with their in-depth look at progress being made to broaden the availability of abortion services nationwide.

After a decades-long decline in the number of OB-GYNs and family practice doctors providing abortions in their general practices, a push to encourage abortion training in medical schools has led to the emergence of a new crop of doctors who are willing and able to provide abortions -- and not just in the clinic setting, where protests and violence have become all too common.

Instead, this new trend could make abortion an organic part of family planning services around the country, offering more women access to safe abortions and removing a critical barrier for medical professionals, who may have otherwise steered clear of performing abortions out of fear that they would then be stigmatized -- and targeted -- as the local "abortion doctor."

It's a trend that's worth noting, not only because of its potential to make abortion more available nationwide, but also because it helps normalize both the idea and practice of performing abortions. It restores abortion to one of the services a family doctor might provide, along with contraception and preventive care.

"The surprising truth," author Emily Bazelon writes, "is that however embattled abortion remains in America at large, at the top of academic medicine, the structure built to support it looks secure." Still, there's a ways to go before this increased training translates directly into increased access for women: at present, just 2% of abortions are performed in doctors offices. But the hope is that with larger numbers of trained residents becoming doctors who routinely bring abortion services with them into private practice, that number will begin to edge northward. With so many attacks to reproductive justice registering on both the legislative and executive fronts these days, that possibility counts as very good news indeed.

See how Ms. Foundation grantee SPARK Reproductive Justice Now is working to grow and sustain a powerful reproductive justice movement in Georgia.

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