I found a recent article in the Washington Post very interesting. The article describes the sudden lack of business for Tulsa Women’s Clinic, using the clinic as an example of the effects of the new Oklahoma abortion law on abortion providers.

Oklahoma passed a law last month that outlaws abortion from fertilization, with an enforcement mechanism that mimics Texas’ civilian-based lawsuit process. The law very specifically does not outlaw emergency contraception. It also states that for the purpose of the law, a procedure done to save the life of the woman, a procedure done to remove an already-dead fetus, and the removal of an ectopic pregnancy are not considered abortions. This means no woman should be denied life-saving medical care, miscarriage treatment, treatment for ectopic pregnancy, treatment for preeclampsia, etc. The law also allows exceptions due to rape, sexual assault, or incest as long as the crime has been reported to law enforcement. 

Due to this law, Tulsa Women’s Clinic is barely able to stay in business and may soon close its OK location. Trust Women in Oklahoma City is not confident about their ability to stay open, either.

Why was this so interesting to me?

Because I hear all the time from pro-choice advocates that places providing abortions do other things, too. This is especially when people are talking about Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest chain of abortion providers. However, I hear it concerning individual abortion providers and smaller chains, too. 

Pro-choice people will argue that clinics that do abortions provide a wide range of reproductive health services: pap smears, well-woman exams, manual breast exams, STD testing and treatment, birth control and contraception, gender-affirming care, prenatal care, referrals for other medical services, ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, and counseling. They provide these services for free or low-cost to women who would have no other providers, women who do not have insurance, and poor women. 

When pro-life people counter those claims by saying sure, they may do those services, but abortions still make up most of their services or are the money-makers keeping them in business, we get scoffed at. 

But this WaPo article confirms everything we’ve been saying about abortion clinics.

Trust Women, an abortion clinic in Oklahoma City, used to provide a range of services to women—but not since the Texas abortion law went into place last September.

“Before Texas enacted its abortion law, Trust Women offered other reproductive health care in addition to abortions, including birth control, STD testing and gender-affirming care,” stated Zack Gingrich-Gaylord, the communications director at Trust Women. 

This “women’s clinic” and others that provided abortion plus other services before the TX abortion law went into overdrive after the TX law. In fact, the four abortion clinics were “working overtime” to accommodate all the women coming to OK from TX to get an abortion. It seems that some of these women’s clinics switched to providing almost exclusively abortion services when the TX law passed.

But now that OK has banned abortion, the clinics likely won’t be able to stay open. 

Trust Women will try to shift back to providing their other services, and they are “determined to stay open even if they can’t provide abortions…in part because they don’t want to see a crisis pregnancy center move into their building,” according to Gingrich-Gaylord. That doesn’t sound like he’s confident switching back to providing those services and focusing on them will help them stay open. 

Tulsa Women’s Clinic is quite a bit more despairing about staying open. They have always advertised abortion services only, so there is nothing for them to switch to that they were doing previously, and it doesn’t sound like they are going to try.

“The Tulsa Women’s Clinic has considered staying open just to provide patients with sonograms and referrals to abortion clinics in other states, Gallegos [executive director] said. But financially, she added, that’s probably not feasible.”

Why is that? Do women not need pap smears and well-women exams anymore? Do people not need STD testing or birth control anymore? If they had a doctor on staff to do abortions, surely the same doctor could be performing typical OB/GYN services and writing prescriptions. 

In fact, it would seem with the new TX and OK laws in place, more women would be interested in using birth control or contraception. Surely the same women who had trouble finding another provider for reproductive health services will still need those services. 

Yet the abortion clinics, even the ones that have provided other services in the past, do not think this will be enough to keep them open—and abortion clinics focusing on only abortions are not willing to switch the services they provide in order to stay open and provide women with actual healthcare services. 

What pro-life people have said about abortion clinics all along seems to be glaringly true. It is all about the money, and abortion brings in the money. If they lose abortion, they lose their income and have to shut down. Or, they lose their doctor who was providing abortion and aren’t able to get another in if they wanted to focus on other services. Trust Women’s abortion-performing doctors are probably going to “shift over to the clinic’s other location in Kansas” so they can keep performing abortions instead of staying to provide any of the other services Trust Women hopes to focus on again. 

Last year, Tulsa Women’s Clinic performed almost 5,000 abortions. That is over 19 abortions per weekday. Tiffany Taylor, a nurse at Tulsa Women’s Clinic, “wonders if they will ever do another one.”

We sincerely hope not. 

I would love for these abortion providers and “women’s clinics” to prove me wrong. I would love to see them stay in business providing actual healthcare services for women in need. We may have very little in common, but by and large, the individual staff at these centers do truly care about women and want them to get help. If they could find ways to stay open without abortion services like providing STD testing and treatment, pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, well-woman exams, pap smears, birth control and contraception, prenatal care or referrals, that would be amazing. 

It would also make them quite a bit more similar to those so-called “fake clinics” (aka pregnancy help centers) and federally qualified health centers. It is possible for places providing women with healthcare and reproductive health services to stay open even when not providing abortion services. Whether Oklahoma’s abortion clinics will figure out how to do so is anyone’s guess.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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I love science and teaching. I am passionate about using those interests to speak for those who can't.

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.