Report finds states with abortion bans see fewer OB-GYN residency applications

Dr. Nisha Verma testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "The Assault on Reproductive Rights in a Post-Dobbs America" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2023, (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Georgia’s ban on abortions at roughly six weeks of pregnancy may already be causing a dent on the physician workforce.

Some Democratic lawmakers say more needs to be done to prevent Georgia’s abortion law H.B. 481 from further worsening the state’s existing shortage of physicians trained in obstetrics and gynecology.

A majority of physicians continue practicing in the states where they complete their medical training, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

And new data from the association shows states with more restrictive abortion laws are already seeing a drop in medical residency applications to OB-GYN programs.  

At a recent United States Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Atlanta OB-GYN and Emory School of Medicine assistant professor Dr. Nisha Verma told lawmakers the same procedures used for abortions are also used to treat miscarriage and some other pregnancy complications.

“And so I’ve talked to trainees who worry that if they stay in Georgia, they won’t get the training that they need to take care of someone who comes in at 14 weeks bleeding heavily, that they won’t be able to provide them with the emergency care that they need,” she said.

Georgia already has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the nation, and the risk for death or severe morbidity is more than twice as high for Black women in Georgia.

Abortion instruction is included in standard OB-GYN training at most medical programs.

Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff said he is worried Georgia’s abortion ban could limit medical residents’ training for pregnancy complications and life-threatening emergencies, leaving counties with a shortage of doctors with less access.   

“More than half of Georgia counties have no OB-GYN at all,” Ossoff said. “No OB-GYN in more than half of the counties in our state.”

The association report found states with complete bans saw the biggest declines this year in OB-GYN applicants—at -10.5%. The lowest drops were in states without restrictions, at -5.3%.

On the House side, the Democratic Women’s Caucus has heard from doctors around the country, who say abortion restrictions in ban states are also fueling a spike in demand in states where abortion remains legal as more patients travel across the country for abortion.  

OB-GYN groups with members in Georgia, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, are urging Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to protect access to abortion.

The bill’s co-sponsors include six Congress members from Georgia—all Democrats.