Jul 6, 2022 - Politics

Abortion restrictions could worsen Arizona's OB-GYN shortage

Illustration of a female symbol, but its shadow has a slash through it.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Arizona is on track to have 30% fewer OB-GYNs than needed by 2030, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study from 2021.

  • Doctors worry the shortage could be even more severe now that the state will enforce restrictive abortion laws that penalize doctors for terminating pregnancies.

Why it matters: OB-GYNs focus specifically on women's health care, even beyond pregnancy.

  • They treat endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome, diagnose and treat cervical and ovarian cancers, prescribe birth control, address infertility and attend to yeast and urinary tract infections.

What's happening: Many of Arizona's OB-GYNs are reaching retirement age while fewer doctors are going into the field, according to a 2019 study by Doximity, the country's largest medical network.

By the numbers: More than 30% of OB-GYNs in Arizona were older than 55 in 2019, according to Doximity.

  • About 52% were ages 40-55.
  • Just 18% were under 40 years old.

Most states anticipate similar OB-GYN shortages, but states that have adopted stricter abortion laws following the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade may fall even farther behind, some experts say.

The future of abortion legislation in Arizona is still unclear.

Of note: Medical residencies are one of the most reliable pipelines for states to recruit doctors, with most physicians staying where they trained.

But medical students may not want to train in states like Arizona where they cannot practice abortions, says Dr. Mary Jacobson of Alpha Medical, an online medical provider for women.

OB-GYNs currently practicing in the state may transfer to other places where the government doesn't interfere with "the patient-provider relationship," Jacobson says.

What she's saying: "I don't know that I would want to practice in a state that has restrictions. That would adversely affect how I feel. Women's reproductive rights would be limited and the scope of my practice therefore would be limited."

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