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Planned Parenthood trains new providers for abortion care in Connecticut

 Dr. Stanwood and an advanced practice clinician doing the papaya simulation, as part of the training.
Sarah Gordon-Brilla
Dr. Stanwood and an advanced practice clinician doing the papaya simulation, as part of the training.

The law does two major things. It expands eligibility for nurse practitioners, midwives, and physician assistants to perform abortions. It also protects patients and providers from out-of-state anti-abortion legislation.

It was signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont in May and clinicians have already lined up to get training from Planned Parenthood.

Dr. Nancy Stanwood is the Chief Medical Officer at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. She has also been an abortion provider for over 20 years.

She said that learning how to perform an abortion is only one part of the process.

“We started our training in the beginning of August and it’s going really well with our first group of cohorts who are learning the skill," Stanwood said. "They’re obviously other components to the training in addition to ‘can you do the procedure.’   We want them to feel totally able to manage. We’re also giving them the other context for safe care and team-based care."

Specifically — practitioners are learning a procedure called a vacuum aspiration abortion.

The Planned Parenthood website describes the procedure as: "The most common type of in-clinic abortion. It uses gentle suction to empty your uterus. It’s usually used until about 14-16 weeks after your last period." The website says that in-clinic abortions are extremely effective. They work more than 99 out of every 100 times.

Stanwood said trainees are able to advance their understanding of the procedure with real patients.

“We’re also being very clear with our patients when they come to have care with us that we have a clinician who is learning an additional skill and would they be comfortable joining the training program so we want to be clear that they will get excellent care," Stanwood said. "For some people, they say 'I don’t want to be in that' and we totally respect that, but most patients are like ‘yeah I’m totally fine with that.’”

As of Sept. 9, there are at least 12 states that have outlawed abortion. Advocates in Connecticut are organizing to make sure abortion is legally protected.

Gretchen Raffa is Vice President of Public Policy, Advocacy, and Organizing at Planned Parenthood Votes! Connecticut, the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.

She said many legislators in Connecticut were supportive of the law that passed this year.

“We are so grateful for our champions in the Connecticut General Assembly and the governor, Ned Lamont, for signing the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act into law," Raffa said. "They knew the threat to overturning Roe v. Wade was real and worked hard to improve our state’s abortion law and expand access to care. This is the most significant abortion rights legislation since the state codified Roe v. Wade in 1990."

However, there was still some opposition to the bill.

The CT Mirror in May reported on a poll conducted by WTNH-News 8 about public opinion on abortion. 

The report found “Only 9% of respondents said abortion should be illegal in all cases. Another 23% would prohibit [the procedure] except in cases of rape, incest or where the health of the mother was endangered. The remaining 68% favored either no or few restrictions on abortion.”

Organizations like the Connecticut State Medical Society have also argued that it could be a “slippery slope to allow those procedures that are in fact surgical to be done by mid-level providers.”

But Dr. Stanwood said trained practitioners are just as good as doctors.

“The answer based on really good science is yes, unequivocally yes," Stanwood said. "From the pilot program that was done in California, they actually tracked the outcomes for newly trained advanced practice practitioners and compared it to doctors who were very experienced. They found the complication rate for both groups was very low and statistically the same.”

Raffa adds that they are now focusing on providing equitable access to abortion care.

An abortion at Planned Parenthood can cost up to $750 but varies on state or health insurance.

“We are fighting for our state Medicaid program to cover all immigrants regardless of immigration status," Raffa said. "We’re part of the Huskey 4 Immigrants campaign, because yes, we know that abortion care in Connecticut is legal but if they can’t cover the cost, they don’t have access to that legal right, and a right without access is really meaningless.”

Planned Parenthood Votes! will be continuing to advocate for abortion care access by working to protect providers, expand medication abortion access through telehealth, and reduce barriers to healthcare.

Sophie Camizzi is a current news fellow at WSHU, studying at Sacred Heart University. She is a native of Ansonia, Connecticut.