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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In the last year (+) several abortion clinics around the country have closed for a myriad of reasons. We often mention that a vast majority of abortion doctors are "aging out" and fewer medical students currently coming out of school are motivated to provide abortions. Several clinics have also closed after inspections by the Department of Health and Human Services or similar state agencies (DHH, DHS). Abortion provision is challenging and comes up against many blockades on many levels. 

In Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Fayetteville Women's Center closed its doors because the doctor is facing health problems. Several other doctors have become ill, died, or simply reached the age, or well beyond the age, of retirement. Dr. Eugene Glick and Dr. Tiller are two doctors who come to mind who have passed away. Of course, Dr. Tiller did not die of old age or a disease, he was murdered by anti-abortion radicals.

Several clinics have closed after DHH inspections. This is challenging because when a clinic is shut down or its license is suspended, the fairness of DHH is always in question. A few months in Montgomery, Alabama, the Beacon Women's Center had its licence suspended after a DHH inspection. More recently in Shreveport, Louisiana, the Hope Medical Group for Women was shut down after a DHH inspection. Based on a recent law signed by the Louisiana governor, any abortion clinic with any defiency at all must suspend operation immediately and the appeals process to reopen can take months -- here is an article from RH Reality Check to help give a little perspective. According to that article, the owner of Hope Medical Group is going to challenge this law in court. In the northeast, at least two doctors have had to close their doors because of problems found by DHH.

When clinics are closed because DHH finds problems, it is challenging. If DHH came into abortion clinics and advised staff on how to run better medical facilities, that would be great. For example, at my clinic we are constantly striving to improve our patient care and services. The problem is that in reality, very often  DHH inspectors walk into abortion clinics with the intent of finding something wrong. When I read a news story about a clinic being ordered to close, there is no way to know if the problems cited are problems that actually warranted (medically or otherwise) shutting the clinic down. In states like Alabama or Louisiana where the social environment is conservative, it's very possible that both the DHH inspector and the person who wrote the news article are anti-choice. Really, I guess that is possible in Anywhere, USA.

Where I work we spend day after day stressing over what DHH might try to make into an issue. We know we run a clinic that offers safe medical care. Yet instead of focusing on improving our overall patient care and services, we must worry over which piece of our policies and procedures DHH might decide to pick apart if an anti-choice inspector shows up one day.

Abortion care is under seige in this country. Roe v. Wade may never even be overturned, but folks who are in power and against abortion continue to attempt everything they can to make it as difficult as possible to seek abortion care. My boss, who has worked in abortion provision since Roe v. Wade, often mentions that liberals are not as organized as we once were. Women who are of reproductive age today were not alive or not of reproductive age during pre-Roe years. Sometimes I wonder how many hoops women will have to jump through to get a simple medical procedure before folks are ready to get back out and yell, "We will keep our clinics open, enough is enough!"


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