Mar 28, 2016
Clinics that provide women access to abortion are closing throughout the country. And not just in states like Texas and Pennsylvania, where lawmakers are overtly hostile to women’s reproductive rights and pass laws aimed at severely restricting abortion access. Clinics are shutting down just as fast in more liberal states, too. Exact numbers of clinic closures are hard to come by. But according to the Guardian newspaper, of more than 50 clinics that closed for good in 2014, a little more than half were located in supposedly liberal states, most of them run by Democrats.
Most clinics that provide abortion services are small and independent with very limited financial resources. Yet, they have huge burdens. First of all, many of their patients are poor and cannot afford to pay the full cost of the medical procedure. And even in the 17 states where Medicaid covers abortion, the reimbursement rates are usually so low, clinics lose money on each abortion they perform.
On top of that, clinics have to deal with the very real threat of violence, as well as abortion protestors who block clinic entrances. This means spending much more money on security at every level: construction, security guards, legal costs.
The closures of abortion clinics are a broad consequence of 40 years of anti-abortion policies that have not just stigmatized the procedure, they have isolated it from the rest of medicine.
The single greatest limitation set on abortion was the “opt out” provision. It allowed hospitals and clinics to “opt out” of performing abortions or sterilizations if these medical procedures violated “their moral or religious beliefs.” This was passed in the mid-1970s by Democrats and Republicans alike. Such a limitation has never been set on other medical procedures – at least until a similar “opt-out” was extended to pharmacists whose “moral” standards are violated by dispensing birth control medication.
Abortion is the only medical procedure that takes place almost exclusively in dedicated facilities. This makes them particularly vulnerable to all kinds of pressures, including financial pressures.
The Supreme Court may supposedly have granted women the legal right to choose abortion in 1973. But that right has been denied, torn up and otherwise obliterated ever since – unless a woman has money.