Abortion in Medical Schools in Canada – An Elective Subject

Pamela Pizarro

Medical students in Canada are not receiving the training that they need to become abortion providers. Many medical schools do not include the subject in their curriculum, so students wishing to learn the procedure must take it upon themselves to become trained providers.

The lack of trained abortion providers in Canada is huge problem and is keeping women in our country from accessing adequate sexual and reproductive health services. Trained medical staff is already in high demand around the country, meaning that abortion providers are hard to come by in some areas. One of the causes of lack of providers is the fact that new doctors are not being trained on the procedure. When you consider that up to 40% of women will have an abortion during their life time, it is astonishing that the abortion procedure is not required to be taught in any medical school curricula. In fact in a study conducted by Medical Students for Choice, 40% of 50 schools that they surveyed “do not teach any aspect of abortion in the pre-clinical years.”

So what is deterring young doctors from providing abortion services? One of the main obstacles is the fear and intimidation that anti-choice groups inflict upon doctors that do provide the procedure. In the past abortion providers have been targets of physical attacks and death threats. Abortion in Canada is still susceptible to stigma in Canada and many physicians feel the need to keep their services private for their own safety and the safety of their family.

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Another major factor is that medical schools are simply not covering the subject in their lectures. Students that are interested in knowing and learning about the procedure must take it upon themselves to seek out an existing abortion provider that will teach them and supervise while they learn the procedure. Medical students need to witness and be involved in 50 abortion procedures shadowing a physician who is already a provider before they are allowed to perform the procedure themselves. I once heard a young female doctor speak at an event that I attended and she detailed how students in her class feel that abortion is no longer an issue that needs to be fought for. They are under the same belief as are many other Canadians, that a women’s right to an abortion in our country is a guarantee. This is simply not true! Without properly trained doctors, compassionate medical staff, and adequate facilities, women in Canada are not able to access the abortion services that they need.

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