Doctors Are Avoiding Multiple U.S. States Over Abortion Bans

There have been a lot of different developments across the country since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling last summer, essentially putting the topic of abortion in the hands of individual states.

Each state has handed this power differently, with many conservative states pushing for very strict limitations and some outright bans on abortion, while many liberal states have done the exact opposite.

Now, a recent study out of the Association of American Medical Colleges says that a side effect has emerged from that ruling from the high court. Apparently, some new doctors who are applying for their residency programs are looking to avoid any state that has implemented tight restrictions regarding abortion.

The study was released late last week. It found that the overall unique number of graduates from medical school who applied to a residency position in the application cycle for 2022-23 declined by roughly 2% from the year before. And the number of graduates who applied for a residency program in a state that has a ban on abortions, or strict rules for it, decreased by a rate of 3%.

Among all applicants in every state, the largest single drop in residency applications was seen in the emergency medicine sector, which saw a decrease of 21.4%.

Applicants to OB/GYN programs decreased by 5.2% according to the study. In states that have almost complete abortion bans, there was a decrease of 10.5% in applicants for OB/GYN programs.

The study further revealed that the decrease, year-over-year, was the greatest for OB/GYN applicants in those states. In states that have little to no restrictions on abortions, the lowest drop in OB/GYN applicants was experienced, with a drop of 5.3%.

As the study pointed out, though:

“Given the small scale of changes in the number of applicants year to year, there was only a small effect observed in abortion-ban states from 2021-2022 to 2022-2023.”

And the study also added that despite all the radical changes to abortion law across the country, all positions for residency programs in the OB/GYN concentration ended up being filled this year. Those numbers were similar to last year as well.

The study reads:

“Most large specialties also filled at rates similar to previous years, with the exception of emergency medicine [which saw a significant decrease in the number of applicants nationwide]. Across all applicant types [MD, DO and International Medical Graduates], the number of unique OB/GYN applicants decreased slightly.”

Other studies, such as one published last August in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, revealed that applicants to programs in the specialty were likely to want to apply to a program anywhere – no matter the state’s abortion laws – versus not having a residency program at all. 

That study read:

“Preliminary examination of one year of data suggests that restrictions on women’s health care may disproportionately decrease the likelihood that [unique medical school graduates] will apply for residences in states with the most restrictive practice environments, although the effect is small.”