Anti-choicers are trying to stop North Carolina medical schools from teaching abortion care

A sneaky addition to an antiabortion law could drastically reduce the number of competent providers

By Jenny Kutner
Published April 7, 2015 8:42PM (EDT)

Anti-choice lawmakers in North Carolina are sneakily attempting to further restrict abortion access by targeting the doctors who might provide the procedure. Buried in a slightly more palatable (but actually still highly restrictive and threatening) antiabortion measure known as HB 465, state legislators have introduced a restriction that would prohibit instructors at North Carolina public medical schools from performing or supervising abortions as part of their jobs.

The provision is being presented as an effort to limit taxpayer funding for abortion, but, as Think Progress reports, it could actually have devastating consequences for East Carolina University and the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill, which are specifically targeted by the bill. UNC, in particular, boasts one of the nation's top OB-GYN residencies and is home to the Ryan Program, an initiative to train doctors in pregnancy termination in order to combat the increasing shortage of abortion providers nationwide.

The prohibition in HB 465, which stipulates that "no department at the medical school at East Carolina University or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shall permit an employee to perform or supervise the performance of an abortion as part of the employee’s official duties," would only be one more in an overwhelming series of hurdles for medical professionals who wish to learn how to provide abortions. Via Think Progress:

Thanks to the political opposition to abortion, the procedure has already been effectively isolated from the rest of women’s health care. The vast majority of hospitals have shied away from pregnancy terminations, worried about sparking protests from anti-choice groups that target any professional institutions that enter into partnerships with abortion providers. So doctors getting trained in obstetrics often face significant barriers to learning more about abortion — particularly if they’re completing their residency in a Catholic-affiliated hospital, where abortion services are totally banned. That makes it difficult for reproductive health providers to offer their patients the full range of services related to pregnancy.

It also threatens to influence the care that women may receive in emergency situations. Pregnancies sometimes go wrong, and the so-called “miscarriage management” that takes place in a hospital often isn’t any different than abortion in a practical sense.

So, in attempting to limit one of the country's top training programs for abortion providers, anti-choice lawmakers are also potentially putting women's lives at risk and threatening public health. What a surprise.

Unfortunately, as Think Progress also notes, the bill stands an unnervingly high chance of passing, as HB 465 centers more prominently on a more popular 72-hour waiting period, similar to a recently passed Missouri abortion restriction.

Should the bill pass, it wouldn't be the first time North Carolina lawmakers have sneakily enacted antiabortion measures, or the first time they've attempted to limit reproductive health education. Just last week, six of the state's GOP legislators introduced a bill that would prohibit public schools from teaching students about emergency contraception because, by their reckoning, pills such as Plan B "may cause spontaneous abortions."

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