The XX Factor

To Keep Women Safe, North Carolina GOP Tries to Stop Med Students From Learning How to Provide Safe Abortions

Pro-choicers clash with anti-choicers in North Carolina in 2012. 

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/GettyImages

For the past few years, Republicans at the state level have passed a frenzy of abortion restrictions while arguing that they’re doing it to protect women and make abortion safer. North Carolina state Rep. Pat McElraft says as much about her latest bill, HB 465: “There’s no effort here to try to restrict a woman’s right to have an abortion,” she told WRAL. “What we’re trying to do is make her care competent.”

Except that the bill would ban medical students from learning how to provide that competent care. On top of extending the waiting period for an abortion to 72 hours and banning anyone but OB-GYNs from performing abortions, the bill also bans the University of North Carolina and East Carolina University from providing abortion training to medical students

When WNCN asked McElraft about this provision, all of her previous concern for competent medical care for abortion patients dried right up. “There are opportunities for doctors to learn,” she said. “Abortion doctors learn from all kinds of training—in spontaneous abortions and sometimes miscarriages.” So which is it, McElraft? Is abortion such a delicate procedure that only one kind of doctor can even begin to understand it? Or is it such a no-brainer that you don’t even need training? 

For what it’s worth, common methods of abortion—such as medication abortion (which only requires pills) and aspiration abortions—are simple enough that most doctors, as well as nurses and physician assistants, can learn to do them safely. However, providers still need training, even if bills such as HB 465 serve to obscure this reality. 

As Rachel Maddow reported on Monday night, UNC has one of the best OB-GYN residency programs in the country, and its gynecological programs are the pride of the school. Now, the accreditation of this part of the medical school is under threat. “The Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education is the accreditation entity that provides for maintaining a medical education program within the United States,” UNC spokeswoman Jennifer James told WRAL. “They have stated that access to experience with induced abortion must be part of residency education.”

The idea that the abortion restrictions being passed across the country are meant to protect women’s safety has always been transparent nonsense, as these laws only serve to shut down safe abortion clinics and drive women to seek abortion pills on the black market. But this North Carolina bill rubs your nose in how cynical the “protect women” line is. McElraft tipped her hand when she told WRAL that her hope is to have “a few more little taxpayers born.” Even if it means threatening women’s safety to get there.