By Claire, Communications Intern
In some depressing news for today, a recent study by the journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology stated that only around 14% of OB-GYNs offer abortion services. 97% have encountered patients seeking abortion. Since 1996 all OB-GYN residents have been required to learn how to perform an abortion. Which means, that even though many OB-GYNs have patients needing abortion services, a majority will not provide the service. The study did not ask if they refered their patients to one of the 14% of their colleagues who do.
Not surprisingly, according to the study, religious affiliation is a huge factor. Most physicians who identified as Evangelical, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox would not perform abortions. Non-evangelical Christians, Hindus, and non-religious physicians were more willing to perform abortions but only slightly more willing. Jewish-identified physicians were the majority of the religious groups to be willing to perform abortions at 40%.
When looking at other demographics, female OB-GYNs were more willing to provide abortion than male OB-GYNs. Physicians in the North and West were more willing than the Midwest and South, and urban physicians more willing than rural doctors. An interesting age gap was noted as well, young physicians (age 26-35) and older physicians (56-65) were more willing to provide abortion than physicians in the middle age range of 36 to 55.
87% of US counties do not have an abortion provider. Some states, like North Dakota, only have one provider. Other states, like Kansas, only have a couple or handful of providers to cover all the patients. Part of the fight to keep abortion legal, safe and accessible is having enough doctors to provide the services to the people seeking the service. As states enforce more and more restrictions on the doctors who provide abortions and their staff and practices, it becomes harder for those doctors to provide the services. Kansas made headlines earlier this year when it tried to impose extra restrictions on abortion clinic building codes which would have put all three clinics out of service. An injunction against the law has since been in place and a decision will come at a later date.
A discussion on the current political climate and doctor safety was not included in the report. It is highly unlikely that physicians would not factor in their safety when deciding what procedures to provide. Doctors who openly provide the service face constant harassment at their work and homes. Their families and staff (and staffs’ families) also face constant harassment and the looming threat of violence against them. The extreme anti-abortion movement goes to great lengths to make providing abortions a difficult task. The example of Summer of “Mercy” 2.0 in Germantown earlier this month shows exactly what they are trying to accomplish. They want Dr. Carhart (whom they targeted) and other providers to be worn-down by any means necessary so they will stop performing abortions. Imagine if that was done to cardiologists or dentists or other medical professionals.
If abortion providers could go about their practices like every other medical professional in this country, would more of them be willing to perform abortions? If they didn’t have their faces plastered on wanted signs or crosshairs? If they didn’t have to roll dice to see which route they took to work so no one could anticipate their movements and hurt them? If they didn’t have to worry about people coming to their children’s school and tell their children’s classmates that they are a murderer and baby killer? If they didn’t have to watch their back every second of every day for a deranged lunatic with a gun or a knife or a bomb?
That is the question I think they should have asked.