Future of Iowa’s OB-GYN education unclear as abortion education standards change

When Iowa lawmakers were considering legislation in 2018 to ban most abortions, University of Iowa officials said the law could threaten its ability to educate doctors who specialize in women’s reproductive health.

Now that state and U.S. Supreme Courts have removed barriers to this law and Governor Kim Reynolds is working to reinstate it, questions are once again being raised about the effect on obstetrics and gynecology education. .

The answer is still unclear because accreditation standards are changing nationwide following the US Supreme Court ruling on abortion. In states that ban abortion, universities may be required to send students out of state to study the procedure.

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics does not need to make any immediate changes. Abortion is still legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks pregnant.

But if new restrictions on abortion are put in place, the University’s OB-GYN department may need to change its curriculum. Jennifer Brown, a communications specialist at the University of Iowa Health Care, said the provider is closely monitoring the impact of court rulings and bills on education and patient care at hospitals and clinics in their system.

“At this time, it is too early to know whether the Supreme Court’s decision will impact the clinical services and medical education offered by the University of Iowa Health Care,” Brown said.

Reynolds announced in June that he intended to ask a Polk County judge to overturn an injunction barring enforcement of the fetal heart rate law. The law would require doctors to check for signs of a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion. If a heartbeat is detected – which usually happens after six weeks of pregnancy – the doctor would not be allowed to perform the abortion. The laws include exemptions that include when the mother’s life is in danger and in cases of rape and incest.

When the law was first passed, there were concerns about the future of the OB-GYN program, as abortion education was a requirement of accreditation. The program receives annual accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Higher Medical Education, ACGME, an organization that approves medical residency and fellowship training programs nationwide.

The ACGME requires that OB-GYN residency programs provide training in family planning, which includes teaching about abortion and contraception. Residents may withdraw from this training if they express a religious or moral objection.

The accreditation process will still require family planning training, said Susan White, vice president of communications for the ACGME. But the organization has proposed revised requirements for obstetrics and gynecology residencies to keep the education legal.

Abortion is now illegal or heavily restricted in 12 states following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, who established abortion as a constitutional right.

In states where abortion is illegal, OG-GYN programs must still provide resident physicians with access to induced abortion clinical experience to receive accreditation, White said. This means that provisions and accommodations will be needed for residents to receive an abortion-related curriculum in a location where the procedure is legal.

If travel is not an option, programs should provide students with “didactical activities” around the procedure, including simulating an abortion and assessing residents during uterine evacuation, the surgical process consisting of to remove pregnancy tissue from the uterus.

These proposed new standards “address the need for continued access to abortion education and training as essential for physicians in this specialty, while allowing provisions for residents in restricted jurisdictions. legal,” White said. The new requirements are currently open for public comment until August 8.

The new rules would not impact the University of Iowa curriculum under current state law. But many abortion rights activists expect more restrictions to come soon, as the Iowa Supreme Court has found that the state constitution does not guarantee abortion rights.

The governor did not announce specific plans on abortion after his challenges to previous court rulings on the fetal heart rate law. She also asked Iowa’s highest court to reconsider the state’s 24-hour waiting period case, but the court denied that request.

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