I assume when I go into my doctor’s office that my primary care physician has the skills and knowledge to be able to help me make basic health care decisions, including information about birth control and what my options are. I deserve to make my own, informed decisions about my reproductive health based on what works best for me. If my doctor can’t give me accurate information or counsel me about my options, where would I go for help?
It seems ridiculous to think that in 2013 doctors could not be trained to provide birth control or abortion, but that could be a reality. The Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the group that sets the standards for medical education and curricula in the US, has removed contraception and options counseling from the requirements, meaning that a family doctor could graduate a program with a medical degree and not know anything about birth control.
The requirements also don’t include IUD insertion, implant insertions, or abortion, services that people need and may have to travel long distances to obtain if their family doctor is unable or unwilling to provide them. As restrictive laws continue to make reproductive health care less and less available at the local and state level, it is more critical than ever that we press for comprehensive care, including abortion, to be included in primary care settings.
Lisa Maldonado, Executive Director at the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP), an organization working to expand comprehensive reproductive health services in primary care settings, says:
“Family physicians are more likely than any other clinical specialty to work in rural areas and with underserved populations. Ensuring that family physicians get proper training in contraception, prenatal, miscarriage and abortion care will expand access for everyone. But, if residency programs aren’t required to provide training, then they probably won’t, especially religiously affiliated programs. And, if no one is trained, no one can provide and no one has access, even if its legal and covered by insurance. Too many women already have to travel long distances, cross picket lines and deal with unnecessary restrictions to get basic women’s health care as it is. Family physicians need to have the best possible training in family planning and women’s health.”
No person deserves to be denied information or basic health care because their doctor attended a religiously-affiliated medical school, and we can’t let that happen. I want to get reproductive health care from my doctor, the person who I feel comfortable with and who knows me. I deserve that, and you do too.
We have until April 25 to let the ACGME know what we think and to voice support for reproductive health and family planning counseling in primary care settings. I hope you will join me and stand up for your rights by signing the RHAP petition here.