An OB/GYN professor reflects on how the new abortion laws could affect medical education in La.

Published: Jun. 26, 2022 at 10:53 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Some doctors are concerned with the impacts the new law might have. When it comes to medical care, OB/GYNs say most women will still receive the care they need, with the exception of access to abortion in some cases.

Louisiana’s abortion ban could have an impact on the medical community across the state.

“It does worry me that it could hinder our efforts to recruit the best and the brightest,” said Dr. Nicole Freehill, assistant professor of OB/GYN at LSU Health New Orleans. “I think we have always struggled to recruit people from outside the state to want to train here because of the laws that were already in place here, and I think this could make it more difficult.”

Med school students have the opportunity to be exposed to some abortion care and learn about abortion care, according to Dr. Freehill, but it’s the OB/GYNs that provide the care.

“The training we do for our residents is not going to change because there are still indicated abortions that still need to happen and will still happen,” she said. “So that part of the training we provide will not change.”

When it comes to healthcare, while the care OB/GYNs provide shouldn’t change, she said access to an abortion will, except in cases where a pregnancy puts a mother’s life at risk.

“Like an ectopic pregnancy which is a pregnancy outside of the uterus and is 100 percent lethal for a woman. That does not change as far as providing care,” she said.

She said the conversations among colleagues are difficult. There are some fears about legal repercussions and still a lot of questions yet to be answered. But she said it all comes down to education on the new law.

“The law has a lot of room for us to manage these situations without us being held accountable for what’s happened.”

While Dr. Freehill said there’s more to it than just what’s on the surface, OB/GYNs can choose to not perform abortions.

“You can opt-out of abortion care, but what you can’t opt-out of is learning about abortion care,” she said. “And learning about the counseling that goes into it, the actual procedure and how it’s done so you can manage any complications afterwards and recognize complications.”

She said she understands the road ahead might feel a little uncertain for some med students and practicing physicians and nurses, but there is still a lot to learn.

“There are still so many things that are not 100% clear yet,” said Dr. Freehill. “The more information we gather and the more facts we have on what this law and change in laws is going to do for our patients, the better for us to manage the changes that are happening but to guide lawmakers so we can keep our patients safe.”

Dr. Freehill said the months and years ahead will be something to watch. She believes maternal death rates will rise due to high risk or complications with late-term pregnancies.

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