The California Senate passed a bill yesterday requiring medical schools to provide abortion training to obstetrics-gynecology residents. Once Governor Gray Davis signs the bill, which has also passed in the Assembly, California will become the first state in the country to mandate training in abortion procedures. The new law will follow enforcement measures set up by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which has required that residents have access to training in abortion since 1996. However, more than half of all ob/gyn residency programs in the country do not offer this training. Those that do, offer it as an off-site elective training that residents are less likely to take on given their busy schedules and long workweeks, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Proponents of the bill say that abortion training is needed because of the shortage of doctors trained in this procedure nationwide. Currently, 86 percent of counties in the United States do not have access to an abortion provider and the number of abortion providers has decreased in the 1990s by 14 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In California, more than one-third of all counties do not have an abortion provider, according to the Mercury News. In addition, throughout the US the majority of doctors who do perform abortions are more than 50 years old and are slated to retire in the next 10 years.
The California legislature’s attempt to strengthen abortion training in the state follows New York City’s efforts to do the same on the municipal level. Last month, New York became the first city in the country to require its ob/gyn residency programs to provide mandatory training in abortion procedures in public hospitals. The New York Times reports that New York’s requirement will have a widespread effect on the number of doctors trained to provide abortions, as one in seven doctors in the United States completes her or his residency in the city.