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Abortion Establishment’s alarm over clinic closings conveniently omits what is really happening and why

by | Feb 25, 2016

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research

closedsign3That abortion clinics are closing is not really news. They have been closing for years, for reasons we have explained at great length at NRL News and NRL News Today.

But with states passing clinic regulation laws and the Supreme Court scheduled to hear challenges to Texas’ HB2 next month (Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt), it is not hard to guess the reason for the media’s sudden interest in the closings (see here).

However, it is vitally important to take every reason they offer as an explanation–primarily the claim that the decline in numbers is the result of the passage of pro-life laws–with a shaker of salt.

For example, yesterday Bloomberg Businessweek published results of its own investigation under the headline “Abortion Clinics Are Closing at a Record Pace.”  Bloomberg claimed that since 2011, at least 162 “providers” had shut their doors or stopped offering abortions. During that same time, just 21 new clinics opened.

Whether this constitutes a “record” or whether Bloomberg used the same criteria for identifying and counting clinics that long time abortion industry researcher the Guttmacher Institute uses, is hard to tell. That said, a loss of 141 clinics in five years would be significant.

The highest number of abortion “providers” ever identified by the Guttmacher Institute, which has tracked abortion statistics since the earliest days of Roe and was once a special research affiliate of abortion giant Planned Parenthood, was 2,918 in 1982. Those numbers have declined steadily ever since.

Guttmacher recorded just 1,720 in 2011 in its most recently published clinic figures. Note that the biggest drop it recorded was for the period 1992 to 1996, when the number of “providers” declined from 2,380 to 2,042.

Continuing a trend that Guttmacher reported between its 2008 and 2011 abortion reports, a significant portion of the drop Bloomberg found was among clinics performing 400 or more abortions a year. Guttmacher identified 553 that met this criteria in 2011; Bloomberg says its study showed an average of 31 clinics per year closing or stopping performance of abortions since that time.

There are no new national abortion numbers from Guttmacher since that time. However clinic closings and a decline in the number of abortions have generally gone hand in hand. And available state data for 2012 and forward seems to indicate further declines.

Bloomberg echoes the line of the abortion industry, saying that this vanishing number of clinics is “propelled by Republican state lawmakers’ push to legislate the industry out of existence.” While one hopes that these laws have been effective in protecting both mothers and their unborn babies from the horrors of abortion, Bloomberg’s own data points to a broader range of reasons and, to the keen observer, hints at some dangerous trends in the data.

Bloomberg does not give precise numbers, but a chart accompanying its report appears to show between 40-50 clinics closing because of “legislation.” This is not explained or identified for each clinic, but Bloomberg says that “State rules that make it too expensive or logistically impossible to remain in business drove most of Texas’s closings – at least 30.”

But Bloomberg finds other reasons behind many of the other closures which are ignored by the sky-is-falling crowd. It doesn’t say how many or mention them by name, but it does show what appears to be at least seven closures for what it terms to be “unfit providers” in Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, and places along the Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania corridor. (It is hard to tell with precision on the accompanying map.)

“Business decisions” were responsible for nearly forty of the closures, including 14 in Iowa operated by Planned Parenthood. Bloomberg says Planned Parenthood “attributes the drop to changing demographics and industry consolidation.”

In English, for groups like Planned Parenthood, what this often meant was the closing of smaller satellite offices and the building of giant new megaclinics. So it‘s not the least bit surprising that there are several places on the map showing a new clinic being built amidst multiple closures.

What are some other reasons? We also know, from observing recent Planned Parenthood history that the national office has had to disaffiliate some members and close clinics for financial or other mismanagement (ex., Planned Parenthood Golden Gate in 2010, Planned Parenthood of South Palm Beach and Broward Counties, 2008). Some of these clinics later reappear under a new affiliate, so the net effect is hard to calculate.

Between 15-20 clinics closed, says Bloomberg, because there was “no doctor available.” This is the reason that states like California are pushing to have physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives authorized to perform abortions and why organizations like Planned Parenthood’s large Heartland affiliate have pioneered web-cam abortions that are designed to minimize the need for direct medical supervision.

The biggest category of clinic closures are due to what Bloomberg terms “unknown/other” reasons not specified. This described perhaps 50-60 of the closures, many in states like California. This is particularly telling because, as Bloomberg notes, California “lost a dozen providers, showing availability has decreased even in states led by abortion-rights friendly Democrats.”

Buried in the story is an admission that “declining demand” for abortion was also one of the factors behind the clinic closures. That’s bad news for abortion clinics but good news for everyone who does not have an interest in keeping the number of abortions as high as possible.

Many clinics were closing because there simply was not sufficient business! Abortions have fallen from 1.6 million in 1990 to just over a million in the latest Guttmacher report for 2011. This latest data lends support to the expectation of additional declines after that.

This loss of business is not something for which the abortion industry is going sit still. As we have noted, they have challenged clinic safety regulations in the courts. They are trying to recruit and train new abortionists from the ranks of nurses, midwives, and physician assistants.

They will promote web-cam abortions that require fewer trained medical personnel, less office space, and less specialized medical equipment. They will build giant, new shiny regional mega-clinics that can handle large caseloads.

Hints of this industry transition are seen in the numbers. Bloomberg says that “Of all the facilities in the nation that closed or stopped performing terminations, about a third were operated by Planned Parenthood; of the ones that opened, three-quarters were.”

If you didn’t understand Planned Parenthood’s corporate model, you would be surprised that even as the number of abortions has dropped enormously, its totals have held steady. Clearly, PPFA’s new megaclinics are picking up the slack from the closing of its old storefront abortion clinics.

Planned Parenthood bears close watching. The larger picture, however, shows that the market itself is collapsing, that there simply isn’t enough demand to keep all these abortion clinics in business.

And that is good news for future generations.

Categories: Abortion Clinic