October 7, 2014 — The University of California-San Francisco, for the first time ever among U.S. universities, is offering an online class focused on abortion care and access, the Daily Beast reports.
According to a 2005 review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, less than one-third of U.S. medical schools offered at least one lecture focused on abortion during students' clinical years. In addition, a 2009 survey published in Contraception found that one-third of medical schools in North America excluded abortion education in preclinical courses.
Jody Steinauer, director of the new course, which will be offered at no cost, said abortion is often not taught because of a misconception that the procedure is uncommon. Further some professors "fee[l] safer" not discussing abortion because it "sometimes makes people feel emotional," Steinauer said.
The class, titled "Abortion: Quality Care and Public Health Implications," runs over six weeks starting Oct. 13, and it will be offered via the online platform Coursera. The course will focus on abortion care during and after the first trimester before addressing obstacles that hinder access to safe abortion and abortion access worldwide.
Steinauer said, "I think 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 abortion and decrease stigma about abortion, then we have been totally successful."
According to Steinauer, more than 3,000 people have enrolled in the class so far. She added that offering it online will allow for a "global audience of learners" rather than restricting it to students in the U.S. She noted that it is important that the class has a global reach because about 13% of maternal deaths worldwide are associated with unsafe abortions (Allen, Daily Beast, 10/6).