The Importance of Context: Teaching the History of Abortion in the United States

When you design a lecture for medical and nursing students on the history of abortion care in the United States, keep these three teaching points in mind.


1)   How their training and education has a direct impact women’s’ access to safe abortion.

2)   How the convergence of law and public health can hinder their practice.

3)   Referral to high quality abortion providers is a vital aspect of patient-centered care.

In the past 3 years alone, states across the country enacted over 200 restrictions on women’s ability to access abortion. They require physicians to disregard evidence-based protocols and interfere with physicians’ professional duties to place the primacy of the patient above all else.

When abortion is illegal, or inaccessible, women continue to have abortions at the same rate as when abortion is legal and accessible. The difference is, illegal and inaccessible abortion drastically increases maternal morbidity and mortality. In fact around the world, approximately 44,000 women die every year as a result of unsafe abortion.

To understand the current restrictions on abortion, medical students need an understand abortion access from a historical context. How have the current restrictions come to pass? What are the major milestones? And what impact do restrictions have on patient- centered care, and why do they matter?