Hospitals Should Perform More Abortions As Clinics Shut Down, Doctors Say In Letter

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With nearly 90 percent of medical clinics that perform abortion procedures experiencing some type of harassment from anti-abortion forces, and new, restrictive laws regulating abortions now passing in many states, a group of 100 medical professionals is asking hospitals to start performing more abortions.

The request comes in a letter to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a leading publication in the OB-GYN field, signed by 100 professors of OB-GYN medicine. The letter is to be published in the September issue, but Time Magazine received an advance copy.

When the landmark Roe V. Wade decision came down from the Supreme Court in 1972, making abortion legal, most doctors believed that hospitals would be where women went to have the procedure. That didn’t happen. Thanks largely to political pressure, the responsibility for actually carrying out abortions fell to free-standing clinics, unaffiliated with any hospital.

Free-standing clinics are much easier targets for restrictive laws and harassment from anti-abortion activists.

“In our view, hospitals have disregarded the responsibility that our academic predecessors expected them to assume,” wrote the professors. “The savings in lives and money from legalization were soon forgotten and many hospitals now claim they cannot afford to provide abortions even if they wanted to.”

Only four percent of abortions take place in hospitals, according to the non-profit Guttmacher Institute. Many hospitals will perform abortion only in special circumstances involving threats to the mother’s life, or if the fetus is developing with extreme defects. Other hospitals simply refuse to allow the procedure under any conditions.

Shortly after the landmark Supreme Court decision four decades ago, another group of medical professionals published a statement assuring the public that freestanding abortion clinics would be largely unnecessary and that hospitals would take on the responsibility for the bast majority of abortion care.

That prediction turned out to be exactly wrong. “It’s generally not that hospitals don’t want to [perform abortions], but they feel tremendous pressure, either from laws that their legislators pass or from politics in general,” says Philip Darney, one of the new letter’s authors.

SOURCES:, Think Progress, Guttmacher Institute