ABORTION PROVIDERS: Shortage Mostly Affects Poor
Poor women "fac[e] a shrinking universe of possibilities as a result of the fear set off by Dr. [Barnett] Slepian's killing" and other abortion clinic-related violence, highlighting a growing trend of disparate access to abortion, the New York Times reports. While middle-class women are often able to obtain an abortion through their private gynecologist, "[w]omen who are poor, young, or uneducated and have no ... regular relationships with doctors have to rely on specialized clinics like the one Dr. Slepian worked in, or on hospitals," according to the Times. Those facilities have suffered most from the dearth of abortion doctors emerging from medical school, in part because of "political pressures on hospitals and universities by antagonists of abortion and the same climate of fear." Dr. Stephen Wear, co-director of the center for clinical ethics at the University of Buffalo, said, "If you're well off and well connected, you can get your abortion. For everybody else, it's less and less available."
The Times reports that some medical experts contend that the number of abortion doctors in a given city is often understated by both pro-choice and pro-life groups -- "[a]bortion-rights forces prefer to heighten the sense of crisis ... while anti-abortion forces find it easier to focus their protests on a handful of doctors they can demonize." The real number of abortion providers is often larger than perceived because "[p]hysicians tend to lie low," according to Dr. John Choate, chair of the New York state division of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He added, "They don't publicize the fact that they do them. If they do them, they do it quietly out of fear for their practice and for their lives." Planned Parenthood Medical Director Richard Hausknecht agreed, saying, "Many obstetricians and gynecologists in Manhattan provide abortion as part of their palette of services, and have for many years. Rich and middle-class women have always had access to abortions, and they always will." Hausknecht predicted that next year's expected Food and Drug Administration approval of RU-486 will dramatically decrease the number of surgical abortions (Berger, 11/3). Click here for previous Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report coverage of access to abortion providers.