Women’s Reproductive Health Professionals Fight for More Abortion Education in California

Zoe Carrasco “fell in love” with reproductive health care while working at a community clinic in East Oakland.

She was in her late twenties at the time. Today, at 36, Carrasco is a graduate of the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing. As a self-described Latina, Carrasco wants to provide comprehensive reproductive care to her Spanish-speaking community, including abortions.

However, Carrasco eventually learned that her schooling would not leave her “clinically competent,” a classification that allows a practitioner to perform suction abortions, requiring a hands-on physical procedure in the clinic. To achieve this, she will need to take additional training and find work at a clinic that supports new graduates.

“If you really want to get training in clinical abortion,” Carrasco said, “you really have to get out of the school system and find it on your own.”

During her three years in the UCSF nurse-midwifery program, Carrasco attended a 90-minute educational lecture on medical abortions and a skills lab where she performed first-trimester abortions. on papayas. She was fortunate enough to complete 16 hours of clinical observational abortion training at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital during the summer of 2021. Her classmates typically only received four to eight hours. She was able to rack up overtime by filling in for classmates who couldn’t cover shifts.

Carrasco once took it upon herself to extend her abortion training at a clinic in New Mexico, logging 35 hours in four days, doubling the hours of clinical experience provided by her school curriculum. There, she took advantage of being able to be in the room during every aspect of an aspiration abortion, when her nursing school only allowed observation the day before preparing for the procedure.

Additionally, while in New Mexico, Carrasco was able to follow a patient through her procedural abortion experience, demonstrating a patient-practitioner relationship from start to finish. At school, Carrasco received counseling training on how to approach patients with compassion and neutrality, but that was the real thing, she said.

“There’s so much courage behind a decision like this,” Carrasco said. “And everyone at this clinic really honors that.”

Additionally, she said she admires the way the clinic emphasizes trauma-informed care and preserves patient autonomy.

Advocacy for abortion education

Meredith Klashman wants to fight for her patients inside and outside the hospital. Klashman, a rising third-year medical student at the University of California, Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, has just completed her term as co-chair of the Medical Students for Choice UC San Francisco chapter.

Together with the Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health group, Klashman’s organization created the Reproductive Health Elective, which is open to all UCSF programs. The elective course aims to fill the gaps in abortion and reproductive education education in UCSF’s core curriculum and covers medical abortions, an aspiration abortion skills lab, and inequalities in access to reproductive health care.

Reaffirming that abortion education is crucial for nursing students as well as medical students, the student organization advocates for more clinical experience in abortion clinics. Abortion training is extremely important when working in an emergency room, for example, Klashman says. In an emergency room, a patient may present with an untimely medical abortion, a self-directed abortion, or just an abortion in their medical history.

“Physicians need to do a little more due diligence to empower their patients to make choices,” Klashman said.

Klashman became passionate about women’s reproductive health justice while studying urinary tract infections from water exposure. Klashman was both surprised and disappointed to see a lack of attention to women’s UTIs in UC Berkeley’s research agenda, despite a preponderance of such cases in women.

Support scholars who prioritize reproductive justice

Monica McLemore, one of the Reproductive Health Elective Training teachers — and the fifth black tenured professor at UCSF’s School of Nursing — co-directs the ACTIONS program (Abortion Care Training Incubator for outstanding scholarly nurses). In this capacity, McLemore supports pre-doctoral and post-doctoral researchers in the School of Nursing who prioritize reproductive justice.

“Abortion care is about making sure people’s emotional, informational and spiritual needs are met when making a decision about their reproductive health. That screams nursing,” McLemore said. “One of the basic tenets of nursing is to help individuals and families manage transitions.”

McLemore provided abortion care at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital for nearly 20 years, and she said she always knew life as a professor would be an important part of her trajectory.

“As a black nurse who has held a nursing license since 1993, not only have I never had a black person looking after me as a member of the health care profession, which I am always very grumpy,” McLemore said, “but I never actively had a black nurse teacher.”

Pushing policy for increased abortion education

Bethany Golden is a registered nurse, certified nurse midwife, and predoctoral fellow at UC San Francisco through ACTIONS, attended Yale School of Nursing, and has worked in private practice, community health, hospitals, including NYU Langone Health and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Planned Parenthood in California and even abroad.

Although she has been a clinician for almost 20 years now, Golden has never been able to take training in aspiration abortion.

“I asked to learn,” she says. “No one would teach me because there are only so many places to get this clinical training.”

Working to address this issue on a systemic level, Golden said she became a policy advisor for Training in Early Abortion for Comprehensive Healthcare, an organization that teaches reproductive healthcare and abortion clinics in California and beyond. beyond, commonly referred to as TEACH.

As of October 2021, through ACTIONS, Golden was also one of the clinicians who worked with the California Future of Abortion Council, which recommends the California Reproductive Health Service Corps created under the 1918 bill of the Assembly.

AB 1918 aims to recruit, train and retain a diverse workforce by establishing scholarships, stipends and loan repayments for reproductive health professionals. Those who qualify must commit to abortion training and commit to working for three years in California, prioritizing underserved areas.

“Hopefully what we’re seeing are lifelong practitioners and a really impactful expansion of our reproductive health workforce as a result,” said Cottie Petrie-Norris, the bill’s author.

The bill has already secured $20 million in funding in the current state budget that will go towards scholarships, stipends, and loan repayment, and is expected to pass the state Senate soon and receive a signature. of Governor Gavin Newsom and be in effect. in January.

Golden looks forward to the day when she can go back to being a student and learn to perform suction abortions.

“I would love to be in a practice where I was able to offer this service, so I hope to benefit from the expansion of abortion education as well,” Golden said.

Nursing and medical students, faculty, and nurse practitioners continue to fight for personal and political change in abortion-related health care, despite the removal of Roe v. Wade and the national right of access to abortion. Carrasco said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month was a time to grieve, but also to gain momentum.

“There’s a loss, but there’s also a desire to move forward and be resilient, especially as a new supplier,” Carrasco said.

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Copyright © 2022 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, redistribution, or other reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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