My family doctor should know about my reproductive health options

18 Apr

I assume when I go into my doctor’s office that my primary care physician has the skills and knowledge to be able to help me make basic health care decisions, including information about birth control and what my options are. I deserve to make my own, informed decisions about my reproductive health based on what works best for me. If my doctor can’t give me accurate information or counsel me about my options, where would I go for help?

It seems ridiculous to think that in 2013 doctors could not be trained to provide birth control or abortion, but that could be a reality. The Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the group that sets the standards for medical education and curricula in the US, has removed contraception and options counseling from the requirements, meaning that a family doctor could graduate a program with a medical degree and not know anything about birth control.

The requirements also don’t include IUD insertion, implant insertions, or abortion, services that people need and may have to travel long distances to obtain if their family doctor is unable or unwilling to provide them. As restrictive laws continue to make reproductive health care less and less available at the local and state level, it is more critical than ever that we press for comprehensive care, including abortion, to be included in primary care settings.

Lisa Maldonado, Executive Director at the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP), an organization working to expand comprehensive reproductive health services in primary care settings, says:

“Family physicians are more likely than any other clinical specialty to work in rural areas and with underserved populations. Ensuring that family physicians get proper training in contraception, prenatal, miscarriage and abortion care will expand access for everyone. But, if residency programs aren’t required to provide training, then they probably won’t, especially religiously affiliated programs. And, if no one is trained, no one can provide and no one has access, even if its legal and covered by insurance. Too many women already have to travel long distances, cross picket lines and deal with unnecessary restrictions to get basic women’s health care as it is. Family physicians need to have the best possible training in family planning and women’s health.”

No person deserves to be denied information or basic health care because their doctor attended a religiously-affiliated medical school, and we can’t let that happen. I want to get reproductive health care from my doctor, the person who I feel comfortable with and who knows me. I deserve that, and you do too.

We have until April 25 to let the ACGME know what we think and to voice support for reproductive health and family planning counseling in primary care settings. I hope you will join me and stand up for your rights by signing the RHAP petition here.

8 Responses to “My family doctor should know about my reproductive health options”

  1. merrildsmith April 18, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    It’s unbelievable that a family physician could be licensed without having such basic skills. Thanks for the information. I signed the petition.

  2. Leigh April 18, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    It won’t fly. It would be like someone forcing you go to the church of THEIR choice every Sunday morning, and agree to abide by their doctrinal or confessional statement the rest of your life as a condition of your employment. Where is the choice when you seek to compel by witholding a diploma, or threat of legal action,something that contradicts a physician’s deeply held conviction? How hypocritical can you be? Elective abortion is not a necessary procedure. Hence the adjective, ELECTIVE. Not all physicians are required to learn how to perform rhinoplasty, neither should they be required to learn how to perform abortion procedures that they will not/need not employ.

  3. ji April 18, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    thank you for writing about this! as a medical educator, i think this is completely ridiculous.

  4. Oubli April 19, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    Signed, sealed and delivered, I also plan to give them a call since there is no email address on their contact page!

  5. Oubli April 23, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    So I contacted the ACGME and got the direct link to where we can comment on their newly proposed requirements!

    The Resident Services Associate had no idea this was going on and helped me to find this page. So we could all directly comment.

  6. Oubli May 23, 2013 at 7:04 pm #
    Local doctor casts spotlight on reproductive health guidelines

  7. Oubli October 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm #


    Just got an email from the Reproductive Health Access Project –

    We have scored an important victory in expanding access to reproductive health care. Last April you joined us in telling the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)–the organization that sets training standards for U.S. medical residency programs–that family physicians must continue to be trained in family planning and contraception.

    The ACGME heard us loud and clear. The newly released Family Medicine Residency Guidelines, which will take effect July 2014, now mandate training in family planning, contraception, and options counseling for unintended pregnancy.

    IV.A.6.j) Residents must have at least 100 hours (or one month) or 125 patient encounters dedicated to the care of women with gynecologic issues, including well-woman care, family planning, contraception, and options counseling for unintended pregnancy. (core)

    This means all family physicians in this country will be educated in contraception care and options counseling for unintended pregnancy, no matter where they train, even in religiously affiliated institutions. Since family physicians provide most of the primary care in this country–and are critical in caring for rural and underserved communities, this is a big win.

    Love it that they emailed me me and kept me up to date.


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