By Lisa Duvall
The tide is shifting. Abortion rates have plummeted to the lowest in recorded history and clinics are closing at a rapid pace. New federal data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)shows the total number of reported abortions has declined 24% from 2007 to 2016.
Independent abortion clinics are following suit. In 2018, 40 independent clinics closed or no longer qualified as abortion facilities, according to a new study released by the pro-life group Operation Rescue. The non-profit group gathers data annually from every abortion clinic in the country. The pro-abortion group, Abortion Care Network, estimates 60% of abortions are performed at these independent clinics, compared to just 35% at Planned Parenthood facilities.
Currently, there are six states with only one remaining surgical abortion center, and states like Missouri and Ohio have seen sharp drops in their facility numbers. Ohio has gone from 45 in 1992 to just 10 in 2018; and Missouri from 12 to two, the pro-abortion group ACLU reports. In total the country had 510 independent abortion clinics open in 2012. As of November 2018, only 370 remain.
Those in favor of abortion say lower fertility rates, improvements in contraceptive use, and increases in the number of women using “self-managed abortions” outside of clinics are some of the reasons for the lower rates and clinic closures. Another major reason cited is what abortion advocates call “TRAP laws.” TRAP stands for “Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers.” Some of the regulations require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals or require abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. Planned Parenthood and abortion advocates say these laws “chip away at abortion access under the guise of women’s health.”
Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, state legislatures have passed more than 1,000 restrictions, tightening up loose laws on waiting periods, counseling, and the need for an ultrasound prior to the abortion. In 2019, there were over 50 new laws passed; half of which would ban abortions at different points in pregnancy.
Pro-life leaders say these regulations and restrictions are absolutely necessary. But what they believe are the reasons for closures differ from pro-abortion proponents’ reasons. They attribute the new laws as one cause, but also cite successful pro-life activism, loss of state funding to clinics, failure to comply with existing laws, and the unwillingness of landlords to continue to lease to abortion businesses as contributing to the increase of abortion clinics closing.
“When abortion clinics close, lives are saved,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “Our data, when compared to the CDC’s data, is compelling evidence of that fact. Based on that, we can expect to see abortion numbers continue to decline.”
Some independent clinics, like the Women’s Health Services in Massachusetts, are so desperate for funding they launched a Go Fund Me campaign. The clinic, which is the only stand-alone clinic in New England performing abortions up to 24 weeks, says their situation is due to loss of grant funding.
In March, another blow will come to independent abortion clinics when the new federal restrictions under Title X Family Planning Program will go into effect. The Trump administration instituted new measures that would restrict the use of Title X funding “to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” When the law was announced several months back, Planned Parenthood and all 31 independent clinics in the Abortion Care Network left Title X. This move will strip $60 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood alone.
Some states are firing back though, by diverting taxpayer monies to clinics which will be losing thousands under the new restrictions. Just this month, the Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, allocated $9.5 million in additional state funds to “family planning centers,” like Planned Parenthood and independent facilities.
More Regulations Expected
This year we are expecting to see another wave of restrictions and bans on abortion services, with states like Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Nebraska introducing new bills in their legislatures.
A bill introduced to the Indiana House earlier this month would ban abortions completely. House Bill 1089 was filed on January 16th by Rep. Curt Nisly. It moves to change the definition of a human being from “an individual who has been born and is alive” to “having human physical life, regardless of whether the individual has been born,” a move which would make abortion illegal.
To make the term absolutely clear, he defined human physical life as “when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm,” which is scientifically accurate. Late last year, Ohio introduced a similar bill. House Bill 413 would also legally recognize the preborn as a person and would classify abortion as murder.
“The time for regulating evil and compromise is over,” said Ohio State Rep. Candice Keller, a Republican and a sponsor of the bill. “The time has come to abolish abortion in its entirety and recognize that each individual has the inviolable and inalienable right to life.”
While pro-life groups recognize the battle to end abortion is far from over, the data does not lie. Abortion rates are falling, clinics are closing, and pro-life lawmakers are beginning to fight back for the preborn.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.