Since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, abortion has been a woman’s legal right (with ever-changing state-specific restrictions) in the United States. But one factor often trumps the legal status of abortion: access. Though abortion training is required for medical residents studying to become obstetrician-gynecologists, physicians are not required to perform the procedure or even to refer a patient to a ob-gyn who will. That voluntary basis can create pockets of the country where access to an abortion provider is a larger obstacle than any legislation.
As a window into these access issues, a team led by Debra Stulberg, assistant professor of family medicine, conducted a survey of more than 1,000 Ob-Gyn physicians on their experience regarding abortion requests and providing the procedure. Their answers, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, reflected how commonly ob-gyns are approached for the procedure – 97% of respondents said they had encountered patients seeking abortions. However, only 1 in 7 (14.4%) of those surveyed said that they had provided abortions themselves.
The data collected from other question on the survey allowed Stulberg and her colleagues to paint a picture of who was more or less likely to provide an abortion. Some of the results were unsurprising: female ob-gyns were more like to perform the procedure than men, those with strong religious beliefs were less likely to provide abortions, and those who worked at Catholic hospitals were very unlikely to provide the option to their patients. Geographically, ob-gyns from the Northeastern, Western, and urban regions of the United States were more likely to have performed an abortion, while those from the South, Midwest, and rural areas were less likely. That could contribute to large areas of the country where there are limited options for women seeking abortion – regions that happen to be where abortion providers commonly experience harassment, the authors note.
Breaking down the responses by age also reveals an interesting U-shaped curve. The most likely age group to provide abortions was ob-gyns 35 years or younger. But the second most likely were those aged 56-65 years old – the generation that was in medical school around the time of the Roe v. Wade decision. As that age group heads toward retirement, the number of abortion providers could drop even lower, the authors speculate, should the younger generation not pick up the slack. For responses to this data from both sides of this always polarized issue, see U.S. News & World Report. More coverage can be found at the Los Angeles Times, NPR, and the State Column.
Our New Facebook Home
Thanks to the hard work of our colleague Matt Wood, the Medical Center has a new Facebook page! The page will be updated daily with articles and videos about Medical Center care and research, including the occasional article from this here blog. If you are so inclined, please visit the page and click the all-important Like button.
It sounds counter-intuitive: burning the smooth muscle of the lung to improve symptoms for people suffering from severe asthma. But bronchial thermoplasty is a promising new procedure, and has worked for patients like swimmer Stephanie Manikas, featured in this CBS Early Show piece from Thursday. Manikas’ physician, the Medical Center’s Kyle Hogarth, has previously explained the procedure as part of ScienceLife’s Dr. FAQ series.
Speaking of counter-intuitive ideas, can dengue fever be thwarted by infecting mosquitoes with a kind of bacteria and then releasing them into the wild? It’s an epic mash-up of infectious disease that appears to be working in Australia, according to two Nature papers published this week. The Scientist and Not Exactly Rocket Science break down the details, including how the researchers convinced the communities to let them release their mosquito minions.
It’s called “The Loneliest Road in America,” and I can confirm the claim – while driving across Nevada on Highway 50 during a college road trip, we saw approximately one car per hour. J. Patrick Coolican of Las Vegas Weekly uses the research of University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo to discuss the effects of social isolation upon health, and questions whether the sparse population along Hwy 50 or the crowded streets of Las Vegas are a better example of the phenomenon.