Independent abortion clinics that combine to provide nearly 60 percent of abortions in the U.S. are struggling to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from an abortion advocacy group.
The development should be celebrated, according to a Southern Baptist ethicist. But Elizabeth Graham, vice president of operations and life initiatives for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, encouraged Christians to continue to advocate for life even if abortion clinics close.
“Every time a life is rescued from abortion is cause for celebration by Christians. But that shouldn’t be limited to those of us who are pro-life. Instead, it should be for everyone,” Graham said. “To do that, though, we must continue to foster a culture of life that protects the preborn and cares for the vulnerable in every situation.
“If we accomplish that, there won’t be a need for a single abortion facility, because each of us will finally see the inherent value and dignity of every individual human life made in the image of God.”
The Abortion Care Network, an abortion advocacy group, did not report the actual number of abortions performed in independent clinics in any specific year, only a percentage. But the Guttmacher Institute reported that about 862,320 abortions were performed in clinics of all kinds offering abortions in the U.S. in 2017, the latest year of available statistics. Planned Parenthood clinics perform 37 percent of abortions in the U.S., hospitals perform 3 percent and private physicians’ offices perform 1 percent, according to the group.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis have put a truly unprecedented strain on independent abortion clinics in the U.S.,” the Abortion Care Network report said. “Although independent abortion care providers represent about 25 percent of the facilities offering abortion care, they provide 58 percent of all abortion procedures nationwide.”
Without the financial support of the Planned Parenthood network, which qualifies for various grants, at least 14 independent clinics closed just this year during the added financial constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report, nearly 340 independent clinics remained in the U.S. as of November, compared to 510 in 2015 when the group began tracking the data. More than 40 independent clinics have closed in the past two years.
“The pandemic has hit us hard financially,” the report quoted Mercedes Sanchez, a director of Cedar River Clinics in Washington state, as saying. “Our huge concern was risk mitigation, so we made efforts to limit the number of people in the clinic and cut our appointments so we could stagger and distance patients. Like many clinics, the majority of our revenue comes from patient services, so cutting our schedule affected our financial health greatly. It feels like we are figuring out what the future holds on a month-to-month basis, and this is going to impact us financially for a long time. Our future isn’t certain.”
Planned Parenthood and its affiliates performed 345,672 abortions in 2018, according to Planned Parenthood’s 2019 annual report. More than 600 Planned Parenthood and affiliated health clinics operate in the U.S., Planned Parenthood said in its report, but did not say how many of the clinics offer abortions.
Independent abortion clinics still operate in at least 37 states and Washington, D.C., the ACN said. States without ACN-member clinics are Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming.
— Diana Chandler is senior writer for Baptist Press.