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Will OB-GYNs avoid practicing in states that ban abortion and other medical procedures?

Thomas O'Neil-White
The University at Buffalo's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

There are thousands of openings for obstetricians and gynecologists. But will a doctor who is finishing the long and grueling training to be an OB-GYN choose to move to a state which bans abortion? Some states don’t have clear language on what is not allowed.

Dr. Sarah Berga is chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University at Buffalo's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The physician also has important duties at Kaleida Health. She has decades of experience in academic medicine in different states and different med schools.

The physician said some doctors starting a career may make a choice not to work in states with restrictions.

“As a physician, I want to be in a place where I am going to be able to deliver the best possible care," she said. "I don't mean, necessarily, the highest-tech care but I want to be able to deliver the kind of care I've been trained to deliver, and now I feel like there will be places where doctors will feel stigmatized, worried and unable to deliver the care they've been trained to give.”

Berga said she knows from her medical career that there are places with serious problems in women’s health issues, which need more trained physicians.

“After 2000, I practiced in Georgia, North Carolina and Utah. And access to reproductive care was really constrained in those states, or was sub optimal," she said. "I don't want to tell tales out of school but when I was in Georgia, Georgia had the highest maternal mortality of any state in the nation and I saw things that I had never seen in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and California.”

These doctors have spent years training to practice OB-GYN. Berga spent four years in med school, four years of residency and four further years of sub-specialties. The doctors have lots of choices in where to live and work.

“I am worried that when doctors are stigmatized and viewed negatively, it creates a difficult practice setting and then they are not going to want to be in the places where they are needed," she said.

Berga said this will show up when those choices of where to work are made.

“We now have a dissociation from reality in a restriction in practicing safe motherhood," she said, "and, so, now I won't in certain counties, in certain parts of the the United States, be able the kind of care that we've been trained to deliver. And this is heartbreaking.”

At UB, doctors are not required to perform abortions in training and some don’t. Berga said words matter.

“What we often, vernacularly, term miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies which fall under the umbrella of abortion, that we may not have had during residency, training in planned termination," she said.

Berga said there is information doctors in the med school training program must know.

“We say there's a certain amount that has to be core. We define a core amount of training and then we never said you absolutely had to be trained in terminations," she said. "Like, we just need people to know the core material of how to help a woman who's having an unintended pregnancy loss.”

That includes her own work in in vitro fertilization.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.