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Fewer graduates are applying for medical school in states with abortion bans, report finds

Trends were especially noticeable among those entering OB/GYN programs.
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Posted at 6:03 AM, May 10, 2024

The Association of American Medical Colleges released new data this week indicating states with abortion restrictions have fewer new graduates apply for medical school.

In the 14 states where abortion is practically illegal, applicants to residencies in states with abortion bans decreased in 2023-24 by 4.2% compared to the previous year, the report said. States that kept abortion legal had a mere 0.4% drop in applications.

In the 2022 to 2023 cycle, states with abortion bans had a 3.3% drop in applicants, compared to 1.9% in states with legal abortion.

Prior to the reversal of Roe v. Wade, there was a 1.1% increase in applicants in states that now have abortion bans, compared to a 0.5% in states with legal abortion.

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These trends were especially noticeable among those entering OB/GYN programs. States with legal abortion had a 0.4% increase in resident applicants in 2023 to 2024, compared to a 6.7% decrease in states with abortion bans.

"The examination of two years of data suggests that restrictions on women’s health care may continue to disproportionately decrease the likelihood that U.S. MD seniors will apply for residencies in states with the most restrictive practice environments," the report says. 

The AAMC acknowledged that residency spots in states with abortion bans are continuing to be filled, and some of the decline in overall applications is intentional. The report says the AAMC had tried to slow the rate of applications after five years of growth. The report says more study is needed to understand why these states are seeing a particularly notable drop in applicants.

A previous AAMC report indicated that the U.S. will face a physician shortage of up to 86,000 physicians by 2036. The report cited a need for increased funding for education programs. 

“Given the new findings, it is clear that both sustained and increased investments in training new physicians are critical to mitigating projected shortfalls of doctors needed to meet the health care needs of our country,” AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton had said in a press release. “Most importantly, if additional investments critical to increasing the supply of physicians fail to materialize, projected shortfalls of doctors will be larger than presented in this latest report.”