Emory survey looks at impacts of post-Roe v. Wade abortion landscape on med students

Just under 500 medical students in roughly 38 states nationwide responded to the Emory University survey. (Photo via Pixabay)

Medical students at Emory University are leading an effort to gauge the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade on medical students and training, especially in Georgia and other states with recently enacted abortion restrictions. 

The research team surveyed just under 500 medical students across specialties in roughly 38 states nationwide. 

Preliminary results show medical students across the country are considering state abortion laws as they apply to residency programs.

“Three-quarters of these respondents said that the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision and the current abortion restrictions in the U.S. are likely impacting the location that they’re applying to residency,” said second-year Emory medical student and survey co-author Ariana Traub.

Traub and survey co-author Kellen Mermin Bunnell, also a second-year medical student at Emory, previously founded Georgia Health Professionals for Reproductive Justice, an organization that advocates in favor of abortion access.

But, Mermin Bunnell said their survey reveals abortion is a significant factor in many medical students’ educational decisions, regardless of their medical specialty or their own personal stances on abortion rights.

“There were a lot of students who said that they did not want to train in a state that had abortion restrictions because they wanted to practice evidence-based medicine as an OB-GYN resident. There were people who said that they didn’t want to train in the state with abortion restrictions because they were worried about their own health,” she said. “And then there were people who said that they would only want to train in a state that had abortion restrictions and were not wanting to train in states that didn’t have abortion restrictions.”

Initial results also suggest the politics of abortion access are adding more pressure to the already difficult time when medical students compete for coveted slots in residency programs nationwide.

“And so it’s putting students in such a complicated situation where they’re having to choose between getting matched and becoming a physician or choosing between their reproductive health goals and services they’re going to be able to access and provide for their own patients,” Traub said.

Medical school residency location often plays a big role in determining where physicians ultimately practice.

Numbers from the Association of American Medical Colleges show more than 57% of medical students who did residency training between 2011 and 2020 continue to work in the same state where they completed their residencies.

The Emory team is working on finalizing the data from the survey.

A report is expected in the coming months.