Report: Abortion Centers Hit Record Low in 2014
A variety of factors affecting the abortion industry led to 73 businesses closing in 2014.
WASHINGTON — The number of abortion facilities across the United States continues to decline, according to a new report from the pro-life group Operation Rescue.
However, while the abortion industry is suffering an economic decline, others caution that the pro-life movement may be missing an opportunity to fill the void.
According to Operation Rescue, the number of surgical abortion businesses has dropped 23% over the past five years. Out of the 73 abortion center closures this year, 60 were permanent. Forty-seven of the closed abortion businesses were surgical centers, and 13 provided medical abortions.
Looking at the data since 1991, Operation Rescue found that 75% of surgical abortion centers have closed, leaving 551 facilities in operation in 2014.
Cheryl Sullenger, Operation Rescue’s senior policy adviser and author of the report, told the Register that a variety of factors are affecting the abortion industry, ranging from decreased demand for abortion to pro-life laws demanding abortion centers comply with health-and-safety standards normative for other outpatient surgical facilities.
“It’s not just one magic pill that is causing all this; it is a number of factors working together,” she said.
One factor is that pregnancies overall — the number of births and abortions — in the U.S. are down. According to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control, the nation’s general fertility rate hit a new low of 1.86 children per woman in 2013. In developed countries, replacement-level fertility requires 2.1 children per woman, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
The CDC’s latest abortion data shows the abortion rate dropped 5% from the previous year, in 2011, to 13.9 abortions per 1,000 women (between 15-44 years old), and the abortion ratio likewise dropped 4% that year to 219 abortions per 1,000 live births.
“When abortion numbers drop, it creates more competition for every abortion dollar, so abortion clinics close,” Sullenger said.
“So when abortion clinics close, there are fewer abortions,” she added, explaining that while some women will travel to other abortion facilities, others will just choose to carry their unborn children to term.
State Legislation and Shifting Attitudes
Another contributing factor, Sullenger said, was that abortion centers were closing as a result of new state health-standards legislation and state investigations holding them accountable.
“These abortion clinics cannot comply with these minimum safety standards and minimum inspections and oversight,” she said.
“As more of this legislation goes into effect, we’re seeing more and more of these abortion clinics close.”
Texas was the state where the greatest number of abortion-facility closures took place, with 11 surgical centers and three medication-abortion facilities having shut their doors since the 2013 abortion law known as H.B. 2 took effect. A number of centers that closed temporarily reopened as a result of litigation against the Texas law.
But shifting cultural attitudes toward abortion may also be hitting both the supply and demand side of abortion.
Michael New, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, who studies abortion data and its trends, said that, despite efforts of the abortion industry to recruit and train a younger generation, they have not been successful in replacing aging or retiring abortionists.
“Young physicians are not really eager to perform abortions,” he said.
“And most of the people who go through these [abortion-training] programs, either decide not to ][do abortions or they go to cities where abortions are still pretty easy to get.”
New added that Guttmacher Institute data on abortion also confirm the observation that a “higher percentage of women” facing pregnancies are choosing to carry their unborn children to term.
“Generally, this current generation of young people has grown up in an era where ultrasounds are available,” he said, adding that those who skew pro-life are “going to be a lot more skeptical toward abortion.”
The pro-life movement could be missing an opportunity to build a culture of life by not following up on abortion-center closures by opening modern pro-life pregnancy-resource centers (PRCs).
Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood facility director and Catholic convert, who runs an outreach to provide abortion-center workers a way out of the business, said that while the closures are a “victory,” she was “cautiously optimistic” about their impact on abortion numbers overall.
While a closed abortion center may discourage some women from pursuing abortion, Johnson explained that former abortion workers are telling her that many are traveling to Planned Parenthood centers in Austin. Texas.
“They are busier than they ever have been,” she said.
Johnson said that pro-life pregnancy centers and other pro-life groups have to “really step up and fill in that gap” and figure out how to provide “comprehensive women’s services” to low-income women that are “life-affirming,” so women will not consider Planned Parenthood.
“We’ve really got to fill that gap and meet that need,” she said.
Johnson noted that when her former Planned Parenthood center in Bryan/College Station, Texas, closed, it was a “great victory,” but it left a gap in health-care services that Planned Parenthood was providing to low-income women.
“We don’t have a pro-life medical center for those women to go to,” she said. “We have a pro-life pregnancy center, but that center is not providing all the services that these women will need.”
“Pregnancy centers should seriously look at providing authentic women’s health care for women: providing annual exams, providing prenatal care, general obstetrics and gynecological care — having places where they can learn about managing their fertility without hormonal birth-control options and maybe having an NFP [natural family planning] fertility care center on site.”
Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, said that the pro-life movement needs to focus on a targeted expansion of pregnancy-resource centers that offer that “full panoply of services” to women in need.
“There are five states that have more than half of the abortion total of the United States,” he said.
“The demand is there, and people will seek these alternatives if they have them.”
Donovan suggested that the pro-life movement “rethink” the role of government and enlist its resources to promote pro-life alternatives to Planned Parenthood’s services to women.
“Government should be more of an ally,” he said. “It should not be on the sidelines, because if it is not helping us, it is going to be helping the other side.”
Donovan said legislation could assist pregnancy-resource centers in marketing support, “so people know their services are there.” He said the Charlotte Lozier Institute just concluded a survey that shows the public views pregnancy-resource centers “very positively,” but most people have not heard of them.
“Market recognition for Planned Parenthood is well over 90%, but for pregnancy centers, it’s in the mid-40s,” he said.
Another idea would be to pass legislation allowing physicians who work with pregnancy-resource centers to remit some of their medical-school loans.
Said Donovan, “If we’re going to have a pro-life future, we’re going to have to demand more of government to help us save lives.”
Peter Jesserer Smith is the Register’s Washington correspondent.
- susan b. anthony list
- peter jesserer smith
- operation rescue
- cheryl sullenger
- charlotte lozier institute
- abby johnson