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UCSF Pioneers On-Line Abortion Course

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With their promotion of web-cam abortions in the United States and supposedly “low maintenance” surgical and chemical abortions overseas, it should come as little surprise that abortion advocates are developing and promoting on-line abortion training.

The six week course, “Abortion: Quality Care and Public Health Implications” is offered through the University of Southern California, San Francisco (UCSF), America’s infamous abortion training academy and research center, and is set to begin October 13, 2014. According to instructor Jody Steinauer, over 3,000 people have already enrolled in the course (Daily Beast, 10/6/14).

Steinauer, of course, was a medical student from UCSF who helped found Medical Students for Choice in 1993, advocating that medical schools add abortion to their training curriculum. Now an associate professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences as UCSF, and a research director for the Kenneth J. Ryan Residency Program in Abortion and Family Planning, Steinauer continues in her efforts to promote abortion training through on-line learning.

An on-line syllabus spends portions of weeks 3 and 4 addressing “Clinical aspects of medication abortion, aspiration abortion, post-abortion contraception, and pain management of abortion” and then “Clinical aspects of abortion after the first trimester.” But a large portion of the course seems devoted to the “History of abortion and abortion stigma” (Week 1), “Values clarification about abortion care” (Week 2), “Legislative and policy obstacles to abortion access” (Week 3),“Obstacles to Accessing Safe Abortion in the US and Worldwide” (Week 4), and “Overcoming Obstacles to Abortion Access” (Week 5). www.coursera.org/course/abortion, accessed 10/7/14.

The Daily Beast article, written by Samatha Allen, featured an interview with Steinauer on the course. Allen spent a great deal of time decrying the dearth of abortion training in American medical schools. Not that Steinauer hasn’t been trying.

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 U.S. medical residency programs that did not have religious or moral objections. Though passed and instituted in 1996, congressional action limited the impact of that requirement by passing a law saying that no residency program that lost accreditation over failure to comply with that requirement would risk losing federal funds.

Steinauer and her colleagues in the movement are obviously still galled at high number of medical schools still refusing to offer abortion training. They look to technology to provide a way around those objections by offering their course directly to “any clinician, physician, health care worker or student who will care for women of reproductive age.”

Saying the state of abortion education at U.S. medical schools and public health programs is in “lackluster shape,” Allen points 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 “stigma about abortion” and the fact that the subject “sometimes makes people feel emotional,” leading people to avoid the subject and to assume that abortion is rare.

Nowhere in the interview does Steinauer seem to acknowledge that the resistance of students and medical schools, the “stigma” and the negative emotions, may stem from the fact that many people recognize that abortion is the killing of human beings, something 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 or not Steinauer expects students of the on-line course to consider themselves trained to do abortions and immediately begin offering them, pursue more direct training, or just become advocates. Steinauer told Allen, “I think 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 abortion and decrease stigma about abortion, then we have been totally successful.”

Those who successfully complete the course “will have the opportunity to receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor” and the course description indicates “We intend to offer AMA PRA Category 1 CME Credits to practicing physicians and other health professionals who successfully complete this course.”


The number of abortion “providers” has dropped in the U.S. in the last three decades, falling from a high of 2,818 in 1982 to 1,720 in 2011. This has led to the abortion industry not only pushing chemical abortions (as something that can be done by physicians who may lack surgical training) but also efforts to try to expand the pool of abortionists. That includes training physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives to perform first trimester aspiration abortions (an effort led by, not surprisingly, UCSF) and getting states to allow them to perform those surgical procedures.

This dearth of abortionists is also behind the development of the web-cam abortion, where an abortionist at the home office communicates with a patient at a remote location via a computer web-cam, clicking a mouse to release a drawer at her location containing abortifacient drugs after he conducts a brief interview.

This on-line course from UCSF is simply one more element of this larger campaign.

But the audience is not simply American. Steinauer talks about a “global audience of learners” and notes that “only about half” of those taking UCSF’s on-line health courses are from the U.S.

International advocates have been pushing to make abortion available in many developing nations, even in places where abortion may not currently be legal. Many are pushing a method called “manual vacuum aspiration,” in which a large vacuum syringe with an attached tube is used to suction the child out of the uterus. No electricity is required, and a person trained to use the method for incomplete abortions can easily use it for abortion outright.

Chemical methods, some involving drugs available by mail ordered over the internet, others using drugs developed as anti-ulcer medications, are also heavily promoted. (National Right to Life News Today has written a series of articles on these developments.)

While these can be used (quite dangerously) by the women themselves or by lightly trained medical personnel, UCSF’s on-line course would supposedly enable some of these lower level clinicians to obtain training that will encourage them to perform abortions and advocate for abortion on demand in their home countries.

All this is done, of course, under the name of addressing “unsafe abortion” and reducing maternal mortality.

But the course appears to lack critical information such as how leaving these pregnant women in the hands of personnel who lack basic medical equipment and facilities and have had only a video education is going to enhance these mother’s safety.

It may be on-line instruction, but it sounds like a very bad movie.


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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