Anti-choice Misinformation in Continuing Ed Courses

By Miriam Zoila Pérez — January 21, 2016

According to a new investigative report released by RH Reality Check, anti-choice groups are using the lack of oversight of California nursing continuing education to teach courses on medically-dubious topics, like fetal pain and medication abortion reversal.

While becoming a continuing education provider in CA requires an application and approval, once a group is approved, there is no oversight of the courses the group teaches or the material it uses. From RHRC:

The California Board of Registered Nursing is part of the state Department of Consumer Affairs, which encompasses 40 boards, bureaus, committees, and a commission that each year, according to a state audit, process more than 350,000 applications for professional licensure and an estimated 1.2 million license renewals.

The law requires the state Board of Registered Nursing to vet nursing continuing-education providers, which range from private companies to universities. But it leaves it to approved providers to ensure the class material is lawful.

That is why Heartbeat International, an anti-choice organization, is able to teach a course on reversing medication abortions, despite the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists statement that “[t]he claims of medication abortion reversal are not supported by the body of scientific evidence.” It’s also how CareNet, another anti-choice group, is able to teach a course about fetal pain, another scientifically dubious concept.

RH Reality Check has provided the state Board of Registered Nursing with the descriptions of the abortion pill reversal class and others offered by anti-choice groups that the state has approved as continuing education providers. The board, in written responses, repeatedly cited state law that said the agency is not required to approve courses.

The agency passed the buck to the continuing education providers, writing “California Code of Regulations section 1454 requires the approved provider to accept full responsibility for each course taught.”

Continuing education requirements are a key piece of medical professional licensing processes. Doctors, nurses, and even massage therapists are required to take a certain number of hours of approved continuing education courses to maintain their licenses. The hope is that these requirements keep providers up-to-date with the latest findings in their field.

Amy Everitt, vice president of NARAL Pro Choice California, believes anti-choice providers are using the state to “create that veneer of legitimacy.”

“What we really need is tighter standards so no one is getting credit for medically inaccurate training,” Everitt said in a phone interview. “I think it presents a health-care problem for women in California when they think they are getting medically accurate information, and they are not.”

It is not clear whether this is a national practice, as continuing education and licensing processes vary from state to state. But the groups cited by RHRC are national, and likely to be employing similar tactics elsewhere if the systems allow.

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