Medical school is an excellent time to start building your knowledge of abortion training and sharing information with your peers. You are already deeply entrenched in learning and research, and are surrounded by your future colleagues and collaborators. Here is is a recommended route, along with specific actions you can take.

MS 1–2

The preclinical years are a great time to start exploring your interest in abortion and reproductive health. The schedule is usually more predictable than the clinical years, and many medical schools incorporate professional time or elective time for you to pursue your own interests; many schools also have the summer between first and second year off. Making connections, looking into volunteer or shadowing opportunities, and starting to plan for elective rotations in MS 3–4 are all a good idea at this time.

MS 3–4
Clinical Exposure

As a third or fourth year medical student, doing a 1–4 week rotation in family planning will give you valuable exposure to the field AND set you up for success as a resident doing an abortion training away elective. Your medical school may have a rotation available through the obstetrics and gynecology department, but if not, the best way to do this is through Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) and/or the Midwest Access Project (MAP).

Getting Ready for Residency

Many residency programs are supportive of training in abortion care, whether or not they have training already built in or not. For programs that are supportive, this may come in many different forms. RHEDI programs are a great place to start your search. (Our programs may offer abortions in their continuity clinics and/or have training set up in other abortion clinics. Some offer tracks that focus more broadly on sexual and reproductive health.) Note that some programs with built-in training (RHEDI or otherwise) may have a high volume of residents who are interested in being trained; therefore opportunities may be limited due to availability of slots. 


There are a number of states with abortion bans, and more with legal challenges pending that will severely restrict of prohibit access to in-state abortion training. Programs in these states may be limited to offering didactics, simulation training, or away rotations. As the legal situation often changes rapidly, it is important to familiarize yourself with the legal status of abortion in the states where your programs of interest are; this shifting landscape also means that residency programs are operating with some degree of uncertainty and may not have definitive answers to all your questions during your interview.


For all these reasons, it is crucial to ask detailed questions from faculty and residents to get a sense of the opportunities for, or supportiveness around, abortion training. Doing your research, asking people who have interviewed at that program, and reaching out to current residents are key strategies to gaining this understanding. MSFC has put out two great guides to interviewing at programs where you are not sure of their affiliation which you can find here and here. Some key questions to ask include:

    • How many months of away electives does the program offer?
    • Does the program have abortion electives in place already?
    • Is abortion training opt-in or opt-out?
    • If abortion training is prohibited or otherwise unavailable, is there training in medication and procedural management of early pregnancy loss?
    • How do they handle malpractice insurance for away electives?
    • What about out-of-state electives and licensing issues?
    • How are away electives distributed throughout the years? 
    • Can those electives be done at non-residency affiliated clinics?
    • Are any of their recent graduates working in abortion care?

Join the Reproductive Health Care Member Interest Group through the AAFP! They are a great source of advocacy and can answer any questions you may have as medical students, and it’s a great way to start networking with mentors in the reproductive health world.


AMSA also has an exciting Abortion Care and Reproductive Health Project with multiple opportunities for medical students:


  1. Reproductive Health Mentorship Sprint. Apply to be connected with a mentor to discuss reproductive health training, and their experiences as an abortion provider.
  2. Apply for their Reproductive Health Scholars Program, Career Pathways in Family Planning Leadership program, and/or the Reproductive Justice Leadership Program


Join your local cluster of the Reproductive Health Access Network!

ACTION: Explore your own values and feelings around abortion through “values clarification.
We live in a world with competing and sometimes contradictory values and opinions around pregnancy, parenthood, abortion, and everything in-between. Abortion providers and providers-to-be may find it useful to clarify their own values and beliefs around abortion, reproductive rights, and Reproductive Justice. Recommendation: read, and work through Alissa Perucci’s Decision Assessment and Counseling in Abortion Care: Philosophy and Practice.

ACTION: Find (or found!) your school’s chapter of Medical Students for Choice.
Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) is an organization geared specifically for medical students who are interested in learning about abortion training. If your school doesn’t have a chapter, you can start your own. MSFC is an accessible, supportive organization. Recommendation: ​Attend the MSFC Conference on Family Planning. Learn from experts in Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and Reproductive Justice (RJ) and network with faculty and students for your future clinical training opportunities.

ACTION: Reach out to the Midwest Access Project!
Midwest Access Project (MAP) allows medical students to apply for observation rotations. This could be a great way to establish a relationship with their organization to be able to come back as a resident for hands-on training.

ACTION: Find your local Planned Parenthood or abortion clinic and see if they have any volunteering opportunities!
They may need some support for fundraisers or other events in the community to spread awareness. Who knows, you may be able to come back as a resident and train where you once volunteered because they will remember your dedication.

ACTION: Investigate your curriculum. Does it include comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) care?
Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) has a guide to what they believe all medical school curriculum should discuss. It includes: pregnancy options counseling, contraception counseling, pharmacology of contraception / emergency contraception, pharmacology of medication abortion, basic statistics of abortion, epidemiology of unintended pregnancy, spontaneous abortion diagnosis and management, procedural abortion, sexual health / dysfunction (both male and female), ethics of abortion and physician responsibility. Does your school’s curriculum include this? If not, go here for more information.

ACTION: Learn about trauma-informed care in preparation for clinical experiences.
Have you considered how seeking reproductive health services can be stressful, painful, or reminiscent of prior traumatic events? Trauma-informed care is a broad framework for engaging with others in clinical settings (and outside of them). Take some time to explore the array of research and resources related to trauma-responsive care in family medicine, abortion and SRH, and in the context of Reproductive Justice.

ACTION: Check out all the abortion care and SRH resources that AMSA has to offer!

  • Reproductive Health Mentorship Sprint
  • Reproductive Health Scholars Program
  • Career Pathways in Family Planning Leadership Program
  • Reproductive Justice Leadership Program

Feel free to contact AMSA’s Reproductive Health Programming Strategist if you have any questions about the above AMSA programming.