The University of Saskatchewan college of medicine has decided to stop offering medical students the choice to do a placement at the Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre (SPOC) after months of review, advocacy and social media backlash.
SPOC is a non-medical organization where staff and volunteers all "profess a belief in Jesus Christ" and hope their clients "will choose the gift of life," according to its website.
The college had said earlier this year that SPOC was a suitable option for placements. In a letter sent out on Tuesday, the college wrote that after further review, it has decided SPOC "will not be included as a placement site option going forward."
Carissa McGuin is a third-year medical student at the university and the senior gender issues representative for the Gender Engagement in Medicine (GEM) student group that raised concerns about SPOC to the school last October.
She said she felt a sense of "relief" when the new decision was made.
"It took a while to get there and took a lot of conversations to get there. But we were all happy to be practising medicine here and it just made us proud that they made the right choice," McGuin said.
U of S said SPOC 'suitable' placement in June
Second-year students are required to pick a placement and do six hours of volunteer work as part of their community and workplace centred learning experience module in a class titled Medicine in Society. SPOC has been on the list of placement options for the past 10 years.
Last month, the college came out with a statement deeming the SPOC placement still "suitable," resulting in critical comments on social media from students, alumni and national advocacy organizations.
GEM told the school that the SPOC intentionally spread misinformation about abortions to fear and intimidate women.
For example, the centre offers post-abortion counselling to help deal with what it calls "post-abortion stress syndrome" — a term that has been discredited by major psychiatric associations, and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
More student advocacy to come
The U of S college of medicine has agreed to include a lecture in its curriculum on the approach physicians should take when treating patients with unplanned pregnancies.
Members of the GEM group said their advocacy efforts won't end here.
Colten Molnar is a third-year medical student at the University of Saskatchewan. He said more work needs to be done in the medical field at large to ensure doctors aren't an obstacle to women accessing abortion care.
"How can we better educate the physicians of tomorrow," Molnar said. "I think that it really takes a keen eye to see when there's injustices in the system that's been established so well. And I think that that's the kind of accountability we're looking for."