A Wake-Up Call for the Un-Woke: A Recent Washington Post headline - "Abortion ban states see steep drop in OB/GYN residency applicants"

Scrapping a medical residency application is no small act. Med school grads send out dozens of applications because they’re trying to “match,” or get accepted into a program---the greatest fear is not being picked up. Why risk being shut out when applying for residency in an anti-abortion state?

A Wake-Up Call for the Un-Woke: A Recent Washington Post headline - "Abortion ban states see steep drop in OB/GYN residency applicants"
Photo by Bradyn Trollip on Unsplash

It's as predictable as Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion; “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”

If the action is a big, intrusive government that reaches into bedrooms, medical training programs, classrooms, and libraries, the reaction could be professionals rejecting work in places where that big government exists.

First, there's undergraduate school with the pressure to make the highest grades to get into a desired medical school. Following undergrad, the Medical College Admission Test, MCAT, and 6-plus hours of torture to be accepted into medical school. And finally, residency - the match game where training to practice medicine occurs only if you “match.” Limiting potential matches is a huge risk that’s probably worth it.

I was thinking the other day about the obsession with forcing women to give birth, dead babies, and all. I have tried to understand it but can’t.

Anti-abortion states are not known for providing extraordinary health care to women and children. In fact, more studies than I can list rank anti-abortion states as those with the highest rates of infant and maternal deaths.

“States that have restricted access to abortion services had maternal death rates in 2020 that were 62% higher than in states preserving access to abortion services. Between 2018 and 2020, the maternal death rate increased twice as fast in states that now have abortion restrictions,” according to the report released by the research foundation Commonwealth Fund.

The well-being of women and children is clearly not a priority for men and women who have crept outside their depth of knowledge into applying political control and pressure to medical decisions.

Public debate over a woman’s personal decision to give or not give birth is not new. In the 1860s, doctors of the newly formed American Medical Association helped to outlaw abortion in the U.S.

That changed in the 1950s and 60s, when doctors stated, “'This is insane, we can't practice medicine, we can't exercise our medical judgment if you're telling us that this (abortion) is off the table,” (Melissa Murray, law professor at New York University).

The Supreme Court ruled in doctors' favor in Roe v. Wade in 1973. The majority opinion spoke of "the right of a woman in consultation with her physician to choose an abortion.”

But in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization doctors and patients were pretty much excluded. Justice Samuel Alito used the derogatory term "abortionist" instead of physician or doctor or obstetrician-gynecologist.

The horror stories of people whose lives will never be the same because the keys of power are in the hands of deviants who remind us of inhumane characters in a Charles Dickens novel.

Imagine being told your fetus will not survive but being forced to go full term and deliver a baby that is already dead. Medical experts say carrying a dead fetus can lead to an infection that can make a woman unable to have children, organ failure, or death. A Texas woman was forced to carry a dead fetus because her physician did not want to risk breaking the law.

Lack of Logic

The Forbes Advisor analyzed state-by-state data from the Center for Disease Control and the Kaiser Family Foundation on rates of disease prevalence and mortality, substance abuse, lifestyle habits, and the percentage of adults who are smokers or obese. The 10 unhealthiest states in the country are: West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Ohio. And more people die of cancer per capita in red states than in blue.

Here's what they have in common: among the states with a near-total ban or age ban on abortion are Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, W. Virginia, and Wisconsin. The numbers may grow as other states consider some form of abortion ban.

Ironically, states with the fastest-growing population over the last decade, including Texas, Florida, and Georgia, rank last in healthcare. The states have higher numbers of uninsured adults, high levels of premature death from treatable conditions, less investment in public health, and too many people with mental illnesses unable to get the care they need. Add to that the cost of insurance and the fact that health care is less affordable in those states than in some others.

Economic Consequences

It doesn’t take an economist to recognize that forced births too often lead to childhood poverty for those who can’t afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to raise a healthy child to age 18. And forced birth, - as with other intentional systemic disadvantages - disproportionately victimizes poor women and women of color.

Research cited by the Center for American Progress concludes that women are more likely to suffer financially when they don’t have access to abortion in a wide range of negative financial consequences which include lower credit scores, increased debt, bankruptcies, and evictions.

Not to mention the lack of medical benefits, paid family leave, or workplace flexibility that disadvantages women with children in the workforce.

Back to the Future Doctors

WaPo reported that States with abortion bans saw a 10.5 percent drop in applicants for obstetrics and gynecology residencies in 2023 over 2022. What will the long-term impact and the consequences be for people in those states?

The Post spoke with several residents who decided against Texas, Florida, and Georgia medical residencies. They gave examples of pregnancies that might have to be aborted in an emergency room to save a woman’s life or an abortion needed for a woman with cancer. These medical decisions cannot be made in states criminalizing certain medical procedures.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires OB/GYN residency programs to offer education and training that includes clinical experience in induced abortion to maintain accreditation. That means states with bans have to send residents to other jurisdictions for training.

“Clinical experience in performing induced abortions is essential to the evidence-based practice of obstetrics and gynecology, and the decision was made to preserve the integrity of the requirement for preparing physicians to practice anywhere in the United States,” the council said.

It would seem to be a logical consequence that States limiting healthcare knowledge and training are becoming less desirable and wreak of exposure to litigation for future doctors. The consequence is the possibility that more future doctors take their chances on matching elsewhere than being criminalized for adhering to their Hippocratic oath: (there are a few versions used, but this is the modern version)

• I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
• I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
• I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
• I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
• I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.
• I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
• I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems if I am to care adequately for the sick.
• I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
• I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
• If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling, and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

I can think of another potential consequence that could send a strong message:

What if women who are forced to deliver babies with multiple defects, a dead fetus, or a baby they can’t afford to take care of followed the lead of the Texas and Florida governors and took a bus to drop those babies off at the homes of Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis. Maybe these political, big government over steppers could raise the children for them.

Myra Jolivet is a storyteller. First a TV news anchor and reporter. Then came PR work and consulting. That's where she is today - banging her head against the wall - trying to help CEOs and political candidates tell their stories well. Myra writes a series of murder mysteries She was a kid with an imaginary friend. That says it all.