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After Roe v. Wade, EMS Providers Need Improved Training

By Allison G. S. Knox
Edge Contributor

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, abortion rights have moved back to the states. Many pro-choice advocates are particularly concerned about what this ruling will do for women’s rights. However, this ruling also has implications for emergency medical services (EMS).

New government policies always have a ripple effect on the rest of society. EMS personnel in the post-Roe v. Wade world will need to be prepared to handle new abortion-related emergencies that may arise due to the Supreme Court’s decision.

The Realities of Abortion

Regardless of an individual’s position on the abortion issue, one issue remains constant. When a woman really wants an abortion, she will go to any lengths to get it.

In the 1960s, prior to when abortion was legal, desperate women went to considerable trouble to obtain an abortion. They sought abortions from people who didn’t have medical licenses or who performed abortions in unsanitary conditions. As a result, these women sometimes died by bleeding to death or through the onset of sepsis, a massive infection. 

First Responders Will Need More Training for Abortion-Related Emergencies

Now, we should expect women without easy access to abortion clinics to seek an illegal and unsafe abortion, depending upon the law in the state where they reside. These illegal abortions could eventually require emergency medical care for the mother, who will be more likely to visit a local emergency department or call 911 for emergency medical assistance.

RELATED: Overturning Roe v. Wade: The Supreme Court’s Reasoning (Part 1)

Consequently, first responders will need appropriate training in gynecological and obstetrical emergencies. Leaders in charge of training regimens for EMS agencies should consider whether their EMTs and paramedics are adequately trained for these types of emergencies. For instance, first responders will need to be trained to understand the signs and symptoms of sepsis.

Budgeting for New EMS Training Is a Problem

Emergency medical services are famously underfunded. Many local EMS agencies constantly struggle with the reality of budget cuts, small budgets and low wages; some agencies are unable to even manage paid staff. Volunteers are always needed to help fill in gaps, and many first responder organizations struggle with recruitment and retention.

As with many other policies, it is important for lawmakers to consider the impact of how government decisions affect local EMS agencies. Ideally, lawmakers should push emergency funding to EMS agencies in all fifty states to help EMS personnel to be trained for abortion-related medical emergencies.

RELATED: Why Isn’t EMS a Required Service in All 50 States?

Allison G.S. Knox

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at the University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison works as an Intermittent Emergency Management Specialist in the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response. She also serves as the At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences, chair of Pi Gamma Mu’s Leadership Development Program and Assistant Editor for the International Journal of Paramedicine. Prior to teaching, Allison worked for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. She is an emergency medical technician and holds five master’s degrees.

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