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UCSF Pioneers On-Line Abortion Course

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The promotion of webcam abortions in the United States and the provision of supposedly “low maintenance” surgical and chemical abortions overseas by abortion advocates has led to the development and promotion of online abortion training.

The six-week course, “Abortion: Quality Care and Public Health Implications” is being offered by the University of Southern California, San Francisco (UCSF), America’s notorious abortion training academy and research centre, and is scheduled to begin on 13 October 2014. According to instructor Jody Steinauer, more than 3,000 people have already signed up for the course (Daily Beast, 10/6/14).

Steinauer, of course, was a UCSF medical student who helped found Medical Students for Choice in 1993, which lobbied for medical schools to include abortion in their curricula. Now an associate professor of obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive sciences at UCSF and director of research for the Kenneth J. Ryan Residency Program in Abortion and Family Planning, Steinauer continues her efforts to promote abortion training through online learning.

One online curriculum spends parts of weeks 3 and 4 on “Clinical Aspects of Medication Abortion, Aspiration Abortion, Postabortion Contraception, and Pain Management of Abortion” and then on “Clinical Aspects of Abortion After the First Trimester”. However, much of the course appears to be devoted to “History of Abortion and Abortion Stigma” (Week 1), “Values Clarification About Abortion Care” (Week 2), “Legislative and Political Barriers to Abortion Access” (Week 3), “Barriers to Safe Abortion Access in the US and Worldwide” (Week 4), and “Overcoming Barriers to Abortion Access” (Week 5). www.coursera.org/course/abortion, accessed 10/7/14.

The Daily Beast article, written by Samatha Allen, included an interview with Steinauer about the course. Allen spent a lot of time lamenting the lack of abortion training in American medical schools. Not that Steinauer hasn’t tried.

She was part of a campaign in the mid-1990s that led to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) mandating that abortion be part of all US medical residency programmes that did not have religious or moral objections. Although passed and implemented in 1996, congressional action limited the impact of this requirement by passing a law stating that no residency program that lost accreditation for failing to comply with this requirement would risk losing federal funding.

Steinauer and her colleagues in the movement are clearly still angered by the large number of medical schools that still refuse to offer abortion training. They are looking to technology to provide a way around these objections by offering their course directly to “any clinician, physician, health care worker, or student who will be caring for women of reproductive age”.

Allen says the state of abortion education in US medical schools and public health programmes is “lacklustre”, pointing out that a 2005 review of curricula found that less than a third of such schools included a single lecture on abortion during the clinical years, and a 2008 survey found that a third did not include abortion in preclinical courses either.

In the Daily Beast article, Steinauer attributes this resistance to two factors: the stigma surrounding abortion and the emotional impact the subject can have on individuals. She suggests that these factors contribute to a reluctance to discuss the topic and a perception that abortion is a rare occurrence.

In the course of the interview, Steinauer does not appear to acknowledge that the resistance of students and medical schools, the “stigma” and the negative emotions, may stem from the fact that many people recognise that abortion is the killing of human beings. This is something that people find not just morally repulsive, but totally inconsistent with the practice of medicine, which is supposed to be dedicated to the preservation of human life.

It is unclear whether Steinauer expects students of the online course to consider themselves trained to perform abortions and immediately begin offering them, pursue more direct training, or simply become advocates. Steinauer told Allen, “I believe that if we can inspire even a small portion of the people who take the course to take steps in their communities to increase access to safe abortions and decrease stigma surrounding abortion, then we have been successful.”

Those who successfully complete the course will be presented with a Statement of Accomplishment, signed by the instructor, and the course description indicates that AMA PRA Category 1 CME Credits will be offered to practicing physicians and other health professionals who successfully complete the course.


The number of abortion providers in the United States has declined over the past three decades, with a notable decrease from a peak of 2,818 in 1982 to 1,720 in 2011. This has led to the abortion industry not only promoting chemical abortions (as a procedure that can be performed by physicians who may lack surgical training) but also attempting to expand the pool of abortionists. This includes training physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives to perform first trimester aspiration abortions (an effort led by, not surprisingly, UCSF) and obtaining state authorization for them to perform those surgical procedures.

The dearth of abortionists is also responsible for the development of the webcam abortion procedure. In this procedure, an abortionist at the home office communicates with a patient at a remote location via a computer webcam. The abortionist clicks a mouse to release a drawer at the patient’s location containing abortifacient drugs after conducting a brief interview.

This online course from UCSF represents a further element in this wider campaign.

However, the audience is not limited to the United States. Steinauer refers to a “global audience of learners” and notes that “only about half” of those taking UCSF’s online health courses are from the U.S. International advocates have been advocating for the legalisation of abortion in many developing nations, even in places where abortion may not currently be legal. A method known as “manual vacuum aspiration” is being advocated, whereby a large vacuum syringe with an attached tube is used to suction the child out of the uterus. The method does not require electricity, and a person trained to use it for incomplete abortions can easily use it for abortions outright.

Chemical methods, some of which involve drugs that can be purchased via the internet, and others that utilise drugs developed for the treatment of ulcers, are also extensively promoted. (A series of articles on these developments has been published by National Right to Life News Today.)

While these can be used (and are used) by women themselves or by medical personnel with minimal training, UCSF’s online course is designed to enable lower-level clinicians to obtain training that will encourage them to perform abortions and advocate for abortion on demand in their home countries.

All of this is conducted under the guise of addressing the issue of unsafe abortion and reducing maternal mortality.

However, the course appears to lack crucial information regarding the potential risks of leaving these pregnant women in the hands of personnel lacking basic medical equipment and facilities and having received only a video education.

The instruction is provided online, but it is unclear whether it is of a high standard.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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