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Abortion Care Training Programs for Nursing Students (And You Don’t Have to Live Nearby)

Meg Lambrych, RN-BC
Updated June 14, 2023
    After Roe v Wade fell in 2022, abortion training has become even more important for nurses to receive. Keep reading to learn about abortion education programs available for nurses.
    Nurses taking notes in a trainingCredit: Getty Images
    • The Supreme Court’s decision in June 2022 to overturn Roe v. Wade has serious consequences for patients seeking abortion care services.
    • These difficulties extend to nursing education, as abortion care training is hard to find and access.
    • Nurses must become educated on the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare services, including procedural and medication abortion care.

    As the battle over abortion rights continues in state houses around the country following the Supreme Court’s seismic 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, access to abortion care has become more restricted and complex for millions of Americans.

    The same holds true for education on abortion care, which has always been difficult for many nursing students to find and receive.

    Nurses have always been integral to abortion care. Whether provided through medication or an in-clinic procedure, abortion is widely considered to be simple, safe, and effective — when performed by trained professionals.

    There is evidence that abortion bans do not prevent abortion but rather lead people to self-administer abortion care or seek this care in untrained and ill-equipped environments, especially in areas with fewer overall healthcare resources.

    Unsafe abortion care poses health and safety risks, including:

    • Hemorrhage
    • Infection
    • Tissue damage
    • Incomplete abortion
    • Death

    Even in areas where abortion and abortion training are getting harder to come by, national programs exist that can help nursing students receive this training and practicing nurses maintain their licenses.

    The SRH Training Landscape Today

    Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, abortion was immediately outlawed in 13 states, and there has been a surge of anti-abortion legislation introduced across the U.S. Because of this, the environment for nurses providing reproductive healthcare has become increasingly hostile.

    Healthcare workers in many states have faced harassment and even prosecution for providing their patients with evidence-based reproductive healthcare.

    We spoke to Anna Brown, BSN, RN, Director of Education for Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health (NSRH), the nation’s leading provider of comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH) education for nurses and nursing students, about the complex realities of abortion education.

    [regarding abortion] for patients regardless of where they work,” Brown said. “Knowing what resources to share is essential.”

    Nursing education around abortion care has always been largely self-directed and self-funded, Brown said.

    While some states and institutions offer abortion care training as part of their curricula for physicians, many nurses must pursue abortion care training independently. Abortion education is often learned on the job. Nurses working in SRH offices, emergency departments, urgent care, and primary care clinics, in particular, all should and will be educated and prepared to provide abortion education and resources to their patients. Some of the programs listed have educational opportunities for nursing students as well.

    While some states and institutions offer abortion care training as part of their curricula for physicians, many nurses must pursue abortion care training independently.

    This education gap predates the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision, as nursing education on abortion has always been minimal. This is in large part because comprehensive SRH topics are not covered on board exams such as the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and, therefore, not prioritized in training.

    However, as advanced practice nurses have continued to gain independence in many states, this gap in nursing education has become even more salient. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade makes accessing abortion education even riskier. As abortion providers close and doctors refuse to train in states hostile to reproductive health, there are even fewer educational opportunities for nurses.

    The resulting educational patchwork can be unreliable. However, remote training programs like those offered by NSRH have existed for many years, offering opportunities to nurses seeking this training.

    Still, forcing nurses to pursue and fund this education on their own creates barriers to education and ultimately hinders clinical care. The research is clear: when nurses do not have access to the latest evidence-based practices, patient outcomes suffer.

    Abortion Education Requirements for Nurses

    Twenty states allow advanced practice providers to perform medication or procedural abortion, according to AP Toolkit. Therefore, training opportunities for nurses to learn about abortion are extremely limited.

    States That Allow Advanced Practice Providers to Perform Medication or Procedural Abortion

    • Alaska*
    • California
    • Colorado
    • Connecticut
    • Delaware
    • Hawaii
    • Illinois
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • Maryland
    • Minnesota
    • Montana
    • New Hampshire
    • New Jersey
    • New Mexico
    • New York
    • Oregon
    • Rhode Island*
    • Vermont
    • Virginia
    • Washington
    • Washington, D.C.

    * Medication only

    Didactic training is the traditional “classroom” form of learning, which seeks to increase the nurse’s knowledge about abortion care administration. This kind of training is easy to convert to remote learning environments. Therefore, registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) can find more didactic learning opportunities than hands-on experiences.

    Exact training requirements vary by institution, job, and state. Specific job duties within abortion care also vary, although RNs and LPNs are often responsible for patient counseling, emotional support, and aiding in patient referrals when necessary.

    Therefore, it’s essential that nurses understand physiology and pharmacology as it applies both to pre-and post-procedure contexts, as well as after-care instructions and general case management.

    APRNs looking to perform a procedural abortion will need clinical instruction to gain competency in that area, which must be taught in person.

    To prescribe medication abortion and perform procedural abortion, an APRN must have a license in good standing in a state that allows advanced practice clinicians to provide these services.

    Educational Resources for Better Abortion Care

    The first step for nurses interested in learning about abortion care training is to understand their state’s laws and nursing scope. The Center for Reproductive Rights, a global pro-choice advocacy organization, provides an interactive map that shows the legal environment for accessing abortion care in each state.

    If abortion is illegal in your area, understanding how and where to refer patients is critical. The website I Need an A is a resource that helps nurses and other people find trained providers nearby.

    Another organization that offers valuable education for nurses and other healthcare providers is If/When/How, which provides crucial legal information on topics such as abortion reporting requirements.

    Forty-six states and Washington D.C. require routine reporting of confidential abortion data to state and federal agencies. Healthcare providers and institutions only have to provide abortion data for abortions they performed. This reporting does not include abortions managed at home or in a different location.

    “There is no reason a nurse would ever have to report a patient for having an abortion, no matter what. So we must mitigate any unnecessary reporting that criminalizes our patients.”

    Anna Brown, BSN, RN

    These complex legal nuances underscore the importance of proper training and education for all nurses.

    “There is no reason a nurse would ever have to report a patient for having an abortion, no matter what. So we must mitigate any unnecessary reporting that criminalizes our patients,” Brown said.

    Abortion Care Training Programs for Nurses

    These innovative U.S. programs offer abortion care education and resources for nurses and nursing students.

    Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health (NSRH)

    The NSRH is the nation’s leading provider of abortion education, advocacy, and professional development for the sexual and reproductive health nursing workforce. Brown notes they are also the nation’s only provider of abortion education for RNs.

    They offer a variety of programs, fellowships, and an online library of comprehensive courses covering SRH topics. To access these programs, you can become an NSRH member.

    NSRH membership is free for nursing students and includes access to several relevant programs.

    • Training in Abortion Care Residency (TAC): TAC is the nation’s only hands-on abortion training residency for RNs. It aims to develop robust cohorts of nurses equipped to provide comprehensive SRH healthcare and advocate for expanded access in their communities. The TAC Residency accomplishes this through a combination of hands-on clinical experience, advocacy-building workshops, and individual, self-paced education.
    • Online Institute: This program fills critical gaps in nursing education by providing a user-centric online learning portal for NSRH members to access educational webinars and modules related to sexual and reproductive health and justice.
    • NSRH Members Only Education Series: Each six-month series highlights specific systemic issues to discuss how they impact individual and community health and well-being, patient presentation, the nursing practice, and tools for advocating for change and improving your clinical practice.
    • Abortion Nursing Corps: An eight-week travel nurse pilot that places registered nurses at abortion clinics to get hands-on experience.

    CHOICES – Memphis Center for Excellence in Midwifery

    CHOICES, located in Memphis, Tennessee, offers training opportunities exclusive to advanced practice clinicians (APCs), with an emphasis on training Black midwives for underrepresented communities in the full spectrum of SRH topics, all based on Tennessee’s scope of practice.

    The Midwest Access Project (MAP)

    MAP offers comprehensive sexual and reproductive clinical training to APCs, including medication and procedural abortion. Interested APCs must apply for training, and if selected, they will be paired with a reproductive health provider and placed at one of the MAP training sites for 2-4 weeks.

    The University of Washington, Abortion Care Training Incubator for Outstanding Nurse Scholars (ACTIONS)

    The University of Washington’s ACTIONS educates APC students interested in abortion care or other aspects of reproductive health, including birth, contraception, sexuality, and parenting. Students are placed at clinics in the area to gain direct experience.

    Additional Abortion Education Opportunities for Nurses

    UCSF, Abortion Care Training Incubator for Outstanding Nurse Scholars (ACTIONS) Fellowships

    ACTIONS is based at the University of California San Francisco’s nursing school. The program offers funding for pre- and postdoctoral scholars to design studies emphasizing reproductive justice in reproductive health services, including abortion, birth, contraception, healthy sexuality, parenting, and pleasure.


    While the 2022 Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has made accessing and learning about abortion care more difficult, it is still available. It is now more important than ever for nurses to seek abortion care education to safeguard the care of patients.

    Meet our Contributor

    Portrait of Anna Brown, BSN, RN

    Anna Brown, BSN, RN

    Anna Brown is a registered nurse with a background in emergency medicine and abortion care. She is currently the Education Director at Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health, where she develops education and training opportunities that equip nurses to provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare. Anna graduated with her bachelor of science in nursing from Augusta University. She has completed the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Training and was a 2019 Erin J. Vuley Fellow at the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, Georgia. She is passionate about advocating with and empowering nurses from all backgrounds to have the tools, education, and support to better serve our communities. Anna is based in Denver, Colorado.