While abortion care is often associated with the Ob/Gyn specialty, increasing numbers of family physicians are also providing abortions, and family medicine residencies are offering integrated or elective training in first-trimester abortion care.

Abortion Access and Family Medicine

First-trimester abortion is an extremely common aspect of reproductive health care. It is in fact one of the most common procedures women of reproductive age will go through in the United States.1 Early abortion care involves safe treatment either with a procedure (aspiration) that can easily be provided with local anesthesia in a primary care setting or with medications.

Pregnancy options counseling and abortion (aspiration and medication) all fall within the scope of family medicine; however, most family doctors do not currently have the opportunity to train in abortion provision. As a result, family physicians must send patients to specialists or abortion clinics for abortion care rather than providing these services directly.

Abortion Training in Family Medicine

The RHEDI grant supports the integration of abortion training into the family residency curriculum. RHEDI-grant funded programs offer a required rotation, which means that all residents, not only those with a clear interest in this area, will have adequate exposure and experience. This rotation should include both didactic and clinical experience with contraception, pregnancy options counseling, and abortion care, including the provision of medication and aspiration abortion, and follow-up care. The rotation should also include attention to the psychosocial meaning of abortion for women and their families, and for the resident-learners. Some family medicine residencies offer abortion training through a local elective. Some programs also offer abortion training through a local elective. Click here for a list of programs with abortion training.

Integrating comprehensive reproductive training in family medicine normalizes the provision of abortion care within primary care, enhances continuity in care for patients, and provides more options for women who may prefer to have an abortion in their own physician’s office. Increasing the number of family physicians who provide abortion care means increasing access, especially to women in rural areas, and helps to decrease the overall provider shortage currently faced by the U.S.1

  1. Greenberg M, Herbitter C, Gawinski BA, Fletcher J, Gold M. Barriers and enablers to becoming abortion providers: the reproductive health program. Family Medicine. 2012 Jul-Aug;44(7):493-500.

  2. Jones R, Jerman J. Abortion incidence and service availability in the United States. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 2014 Feb; 46(1):3-14.

  3. Nothnagle M, Prine L, Goodman S. Benefits of comprehensive reproductive health education in Family Medicine residency. Family Medicine. 2008 Mar;40(3):204-7.