Beginning in July, obstetrics and gynecology residents in New York City's public hospitals will be routinely trained to perform abortions under a program backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Abortion training, which previously was an elective in the four-year OB-GYN residency program, will be mandatory for residents, except those who opt out for moral or religious reasons, said Dr. Van Dunn, senior vice president for medical and professional affairs at the city hospital agency.
Dunn said most residency programs nationwide do not require abortion training and offer it instead as an elective.
The city's program was initiated by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, which met last year with Bloomberg and the other New York City mayoral candidates.
NARAL promoted the idea because the number of abortion providers is shrinking and the program could improve access to the procedure nationwide, since one in seven doctors is trained in New York City, said Kelli Conlin, executive director of NARAL's New York office.
"You do not want to have second-rate medicine ever practiced," Bloomberg said recently. "These are procedures that are allowed by law and we're going to make sure that the doctors are trained appropriately."
Roughly 150 OB-GYN residents rotate through eight of New York City's 11 public hospitals each year. Doctors in the public hospitals perform about 6,500 abortions a year, Dunn said.
Lori Hougens, a spokeswoman for the New York State Right-to-Life Committee, said it was "horrible" to consider abortions as part of mainstream health care.
"We aren't supposed to let doctors take life. We're supposed to be able to trust doctors to be saving people," Hougens said. "They're trying to steer the consciences of residents and make it just a normal thing for them to do."