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Four Residents' Narratives on Abortion Training: A Residency Climate of Reflection, Support, and Mutual Respect

Singer, Janet MSN, CNM; Fiascone, Stephen MD; Huber, Warren J. III MD, PhD; Hunter, Tiffany C. MD; Sperling, Jeffrey MD, MS

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000896
Contents: Family Planning: Current Commentary

The decision on the part of obstetrics and gynecology residents to opt in or out of abortion training is, for many, a complex one. Although the public debate surrounding abortion can be filled with polarizing rhetoric, residents often discover that the boundaries between pro-choice and pro-life beliefs are not so neatly divided. We present narratives from four residents, training at a 32-resident program in the Northeast, who have a range of views surrounding abortion. Their stories reveal how some struggle with the real-life experience of providing abortions, while others feel angst over lacking the skills to terminate a life-threatening pregnancy. These residents have found that close relationships with coworkers from all sides of this issue, along with a residency program that encourages open conversation, have fostered understanding. Their narratives demonstrate that reasonable providers can disagree fundamentally and still work effectively with one another and that the close relationships formed in residency can allow both sides to see beyond the black and white of the public abortion debate. Our objectives in this commentary are to encourage a more nuanced discussion of abortion among obstetrician–gynecologists, to describe the aspects of our residency program that facilitate open dialogue and respect across diverse viewpoints, and to demonstrate that the clear distinction between being pro-life and pro-choice often breaks down when one is immediately responsible for the care of pregnant women.

Four obstetrics and gynecology residents, hoping to inspire more open discussion of abortion among obstetrician–gynecologists, share their experiences in opting in or out of abortion training.

Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, Providence, Rhode Island.

Corresponding author: Janet Singer, MSN, CNM, Women & Infants Hospital, 101 Dudley Street, Providence, RI 02905; e-mail:

Financial Disclosure The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.

© 2015 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.