Abortion Restrictions Drive Decline in Medical Residency Applications

The article reports on the decline in medical residency applications in 14 US states with abortion restrictions, resulting in a 4.2% drop in overall applications and a 6.7% decrease in Obstetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN) applications, threatening the future of healthcare in these regions. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) analysis highlights the impact of abortion bans on the medical workforce, with doctors opting to train elsewhere, potentially exacerbating healthcare disparities and compromising the quality of care." This description focuses on the primary topic of abortion restrictions affecting medical residency applications, the main entity of the AAMC, and the context of 14 US states. It also highlights the significant actions and consequences of the decline in applications, including the potential impact on healthcare disparities and quality of care. The description provides objective and relevant details that will guide the AI in creating an accurate visual representation of the article's content.

author-image
Aqsa Younas Rana
New Update
Abortion Restrictions Drive Decline in Medical Residency Applications

Abortion Restrictions Drive Decline in Medical Residency Applications

Abortion restrictions in 14 US states have led to a significant decline in medical residency applications, according to a new analysis by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Research and Action Institute. The study found a 4.2% drop in overall medical residency applications in these states, with an even more pronounced 6.7% decrease in Obstetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN) applications. This alarming trend threatens to unravel state healthcare systems as aspiring doctors opt to pursue their training elsewhere.

Why this matters: The decline in medical residency applications in states with abortion restrictions has far-reaching implications for the future of healthcare in these regions, as it may lead to a shortage of skilled doctors and compromise the quality of care. Moreover, this trend may exacerbate existing healthcare disparities and create a ripple effect on the overall medical workforce in the United States.

The AAMC analysis compared residency application cycles before and after the June 24, 2022 Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson, which overturned the constitutional right to legal, safe abortions. In states with abortion bans, the percentage of medical students applying to residency programs decreased from 84.7% in 2022 to 82.4% in 2023. The decline was observed across various specialties, but OBGYN and emergency medicine were disproportionately affected.

"The biggest takeaway is that for a second year, we are seeing decreases in the number of applications in states where abortion bans are in place," said Kendal Orgera, a senior research analyst at AAMC. The continued decline comes after nearly five years of growth in residency applications. Dr. Kara Cadwallader, a family medicine physician in Idaho, noted, "It's a big message to legislators that doctors don't want to be told how to practice medicine. Why would anyone want to train where they can't really learn the right standard of care?"

The decline in applications is not limited to OBGYN specialties but also affects fields that don't primarily serve pregnant patients. This could threaten the future of the overall medical workforce in states with abortion bans, as doctors tend to locate permanently where they complete their residencies. Graduating medical students are concerned not only about their ability to practice medicine but also about their own health or that of their partners. "People don't feel safe potentially having their own pregnancies living in those states," said Debra Stulberg, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Chicago.

Many medical school graduates are changing their residency plans due to state abortion restrictions. Ash Panakamis, a Harvard Medical School graduate, initially wanted to return to her home state of Georgia for her residency but will now start her training in Pittsburgh. "Ultimately, I shifted my selection pretty drastically," she said. Hannah Light Olson, another graduate, will leave Nashville for OBGYN training at the University of California at San Francisco, citing concerns about her own health and safety.

While some students are choosing to train in states with abortion restrictions to ensure patients receive care, others worry that the training won't be sufficient. The geographic misalignment between where the needs are and where people are choosing to go is "really problematic," according to Stulberg. Many of the states with full or partial abortion bans currently have fewer OBGYNs. As more states pass abortion policies, differences between states may become more pronounced, leading to potential healthcare system disruptions.

As of May 2, 2024, abortions are nearly totally banned in 14 states across the country, with varying penalties for providers. The decline in residency applicants comes at a time when doctors who have practiced in abortion ban states for years are uprooting their practices and moving elsewhere. A recent report found that Idaho lost 22% of its practicing OBGYNs in the 15 months following the Dobbs decision, with 55% of high-risk OBGYNs leaving the state. The AAMC's findings highlight the urgent need for states to prepare for shifts in physician numbers as their legislators or voters change their abortion policies.

Key Takeaways

  • 14 US states with abortion restrictions saw a 4.2% drop in medical residency applications.
  • OBGYN applications decreased by 6.7% in these states, threatening healthcare systems.
  • Doctors are opting out of training in states with abortion bans, citing concerns for patients and themselves.
  • This trend may exacerbate healthcare disparities and create a ripple effect on the US medical workforce.
  • States with abortion bans may face shortages of skilled doctors and compromised healthcare quality.