Overturning Roe: Implications for Medical Education, Training, and PracticeJun 27, 2022
Larry Green, MD, Alison Reidmohr, MA, Shale Wong, MD
Last Friday, June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the precedent set by Roe vs. Wade in 1973 that established a pregnant person’s right to legal abortion care. Anschutz Medical Campus’ leadership statement described the decision and its implications, saying:
“The recently announced Supreme Court opinion… represents a major step backward for women's rights. This opinion allows states to restrict patient autonomy and to insert government into the relationship between healthcare providers and patients. In many states, this opinion will restrict the ability to educate and train healthcare professionals in the full scope of reproductive health services.
The immediate impacts of this decision are completely predictable: a public health crisis – worse health outcomes for women of reproductive age and the widening of health disparities due in part to the costs of traveling out of state for care. The potential longer-range consequences are also extremely concerning: establishing the precedent of allowing legislatures and courts to further restrict personal autonomy and curtailing hard-won personal rights.”
Other organizations representing medical professionals are drawing attention to the impact this decision will have on healthcare providers’ ability to train and practice medicine. The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), a nonprofit association comprised of 171 accredited U.S. and Canadian medical schools and more than 400 teaching hospitals and health systems, has released a statement detailing many of the ways in which this decision will affect medical training and residency, most critically in obstetrics and gynecology. Nearly half of OB-GYN programs are located in states likely or certain to outlaw abortion in the near future. These laws will limit students’ and residents’ abilities to learn potentially lifesaving healthcare procedures in these states. Moreover, this change will have a major impact on all physicians who care for women and teens of childbearing age. Multiple other medical specialties, including emergency medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, anesthesia, and surgery will need to consider legal implications for training physicians within their specialty and providing both medical and surgical care.
The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the national organization that defines and establishes standards for medical specialties, has also released a statement on this decision. The ABMS sets standards for specialty boards that assess whether physicians meet high standards concerning professional standing, staying up to date with new knowledge and technology, and improving practice. Current interference in medical practice by state legislatures and the courts has provoked ABMS to step up with other professional organizations and assert publicly objections to elected and appointed officials declaring what is proper medical care and criminalizing (in some instances) the provision of evidence-based care. This is a dangerous shift in policy that is highly organized at national and state levels.
With this unusual statement by ABMS an alarm signals unwarranted intrusion of government interfering with the practice of medicine and the ability of your doctor and you to make decisions together about what is best for you. Medicine is a profession committed to serving people, and it is stunningly complicated, far too complicated for the blunt policy instruments of law to dictate individuals’ personal healthcare.