ABORTION: CARAL Decries Inaccessibility of Services in Hospitals
Abortion services at state hospitals are largely inaccessible, according to a new survey released yesterday by the California Hospital Abortion Access Project, a collaboration between the California Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League's Pro- Choice Education Fund and the Women's Health Rights Coalition. The study found that 261 of the 362 general hospitals surveyed, or 72.1%, tell women callers they don't provide abortions. These facilities represent 47 of 58 counties in the state. Moreover, 19.9% of hospitals provide abortions only if a woman has a doctor who will perform the procedure and has surgery rights at that hospital, and 3% of hospitals could not provide a clear answer as to their abortion accessibility. Five percent provide abortions without significant restrictions. The report, entitled "Holes in the Safety Net," also indicates that the majority of abortion- accessible hospitals are located in urban areas and in the western and southern portions of the state. CARAL Executive Director Belle Taylor-McGhee said, "Very often hospitals represent the only viable option for surgical reproductive health services. Yet our study shows that hospital-based abortions are rapidly declining. Too often women most vulnerable to barriers of care -- low-income women, women with medical complications, and rural women -- are caught in the middle." WHRC Executive Director Brenda Cummings added, "Ironically, women with complicated medical situations -- even conditions as common as previous C-sections, asthma or diabetes -- are less able to travel but are more likely to have to leave their community to receive abortion care." For purposes of the study, an abortion-accessible facility is one at which a patient can secure an appointment without a prior relationship to a physician and without undue difficulty. The study notes that rather than ascertain whether abortion services exist at the hospitals, researchers sought to determine people's ability to obtain these services, and thus called each facility posing as a pregnant woman seeking an abortion. Taylor-McGhee said, "If a hospital tells a woman that it won't schedule her for an abortion, if she is told to try the yellow pages, if she is simply given the runaround, then the abortion service is not accessible to her." She concluded, "This study finds that the safety net is full of holes. Pro-choice advocates, policymakers, health care providers, community leaders and public officials must all play a role in finding a solution." CARAL yesterday also launched a new feature on the Pro-Choice Education Fund's Web site (www.choice.org) titled "Walk in Her Shoes," which provides a roadmap to hospital abortion access on a county-by-county or statewide basis (CARAL release, 6/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.