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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

OK. I think I'm bracing myself to piss off a lot of people with this post. So here it goes...

Am I the only one out there that thinks some of our feminist clinics have changed? Maybe lost of some their feminist qualities? Lost some of those things that make them different from the regular, kinda corporate-like abortion clinics? Despite good intentions, I think they have. Sometimes I feel a bit angry about this, but then I knock myself upside the head and think, “Of course they have. Times have changed.”

Over the years, they’ve had to adapt. Clinics have had flex to external pressures of physicians, state and national law, and medical standards; not to mention meeting the ever-changing expectations of clients and the local community. As independent abortion clinics have adhered and adjusted to these changes, they've lost some of their roots: what makes them who they are. What makes them different.

Why are feminist-based abortion clinics special? They typically were established, owned, and operated by women whose ideals spat in the face of the status quo. They had dreams of women working passionately, cooperatively towards a common goal: demystifying abortion. Breaking the “standard expectations” of women to their very bones; allowing a space for women to feel free, to make their own choices, apart from judgment. A sacred place for women have a voice. A place to rediscover, remember who they are.

Why has this changed? Because administrators are so focused on administrative type things (budgets, appeasing all they need to appease, putting out fires, lobbying, etc.), it becomes difficult to focus on feminist things like: making sure staff earn a sustainable living (see Deliverance's post last week); ensuring that power of hierarchy doesn’t become a poison to morale; and remembering…instilling institutional (gasp!) memory and culture within staff and management, lest they (the organization) forgets who THEY are. Their roots.

There are other reasons they’ve changed, too. Let’s face it: there’s a decrease in abortion. Little clinics are struggling to stay open – just like Sparky touched on the other day. I mean, if not as many people need abortions, you’ve either got to diversify the services you offer (expand them?) or you’re going to simply struggle to provide abortions.

We talk a lot about stupid, restricting new laws that are being conceived and born every day. They’re annoying. So are restrictions by the department of health (like Sparky mentioned last week). But there’s another reason things have changed for feminist clinics. Another reason they’re busy and finding it hard to do feminist things: competition. Okay. Come on. Admit it. Clinics have competitors. Yes. Yes. I know. I spoke the unspoken. (Gasp!) I mean, HELLO. Running a business doesn’t make you less altruistic. And, honestly, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that small women-owned and operated, independent businesses, find it hard to stand tall against corporate-like competitors.

It’s super important that access to abortion is increased. We already know nearly all counties in the USA don’t have abortion providers. That is wrong and it sucks. But there’s another side to all of this. Clinics are closing down. Not because of obnoxious, annoying protesters and harassing laws. Not because the department of health is making things difficult (well, except in this instance!). You’re all clever. So I’ll just ask you this: were any of the clinics that closed down recently Planned Parenthoods? Not that I know of. (I could be wrong.) They were all little clinics. And I'm sorry to admit this, but even the pro-lifers wrote an article about this back in February. (And no, I'm not going to provide the link here, because I don't want to give traffic to their site. Yes. I'm being a bit totalitarian about it.)

Who is out there talking about this? Even the clinics shutting down and the feminists don't seem to be making enough noise. Some organizations are out there waving the flag that hospitals should provide more abortion services. Okay. Great. But again, the more hospitals are out there doing abortions, the more corporate institutions are out there expanding their abortion services, the fewer independent providers there will be. It’s just kind of a fact. The way I see it: too many big fish in a small bowl fighting for a service on the decline.

So. Things have changed. Feminist clinics are too busy fighting to keep their doors open because financially, in straight-up business terms, it’s tough. The tides are turning.

I ask this: what happens to the women?


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