Some 45 abortion clinics across the U.S. ceased performing the procedure in 2020, according to a recent report published by Operation Rescue, a pro-life advocacy organization.
According to the report, about half of these clinics provided surgical abortion, while the others provided abortion pills, which facilitate chemical abortions.
“Chemical abortion … is becoming more popular as the abortion procedure of choice,” according to Eric Johnston, an attorney with the Southeast Law Institute based in Birmingham.
One reason is because they are more convenient, explained Laura Echevarria, director of communications and press secretary for National Right to Life. The rhetoric around chemical abortions “muddies the waters philosophically” for many women.
“A woman could convince herself that all she did is induce a miscarriage,” Echevarria said. “The terminology is different and the way that people think about it is different. And the humanity of the child is lost in all of that.”
NY and California see most closures
Nineteen of the 56 abortion facilities that closed, or indefinitely ceased operations, were in New York and California — states that enacted strict lockdowns in an effort to quell the spread of the coronavirus.
These lockdowns may have contributed to the inability of some facilities to perform abortions, according to Operation Rescue.
When factoring in states that added clinics, there was a net decrease of four nationwide in 2020, according to the report.
Missouri became the first state without a functioning abortion clinic last year. Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming each had a single clinic in 2020.
Planned Parenthood operated 52% of U.S. abortion clinics, but 58% of abortions were conducted at independent clinics, according to the report.
Prior to the pandemic, very few abortion facilities provided women the option to abort pregnancy through telemedicine programs. Operation Rescue found that in 2020 the number rose to 69.
Most of these telemedicine abortion programs were developed by existing clinics. Two new abortion businesses — Just the Pill, based in Minnesota, and Choix, based in California — launched last year with the sole purpose of providing women in these states with abortive drugs exclusively through the U.S. Postal Service, according to Operation Rescue.
These businesses were able to operate because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relaxed a 2000 federal law requiring women to visit a clinic, doctor’s office or hospital before being eligible to receive drugs that induce abortion, according to the report — a reaction to reduced abortion capacity in many areas from regulations aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. On Jan. 12, however, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the requirement that women must be seen in person before being prescribed abortion-inducing drugs.
In Alabama, chemical abortion medications can only be prescribed by physicians, and only after the patient seeking the abortion completes an in-person doctor’s appointment with the prescribing physician, Johnston noted.
“Pro-life legislative advances have traditionally been much more numerous and effective at the state level than the federal level, and 2020 was no different,” according to the Operation Rescue report.
They note that six states (Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky and Louisiana) passed 17 “life-affirming laws” in 2020, while legislation expanding abortion was enacted in Virginia and the District of Columbia.
As of Feb. 5, three abortion-related bills have been introduced in the Alabama Legislature.
- A born-alive bill, requiring a physician to exercise reasonable care to preserve the life of a child born alive after an abortion or attempted abortion in an abortion or reproductive health center.
- Recognizing Jan. 22, 2022 as the Day of Tears in Alabama, to “mourn the innocents who lost their lives to abortion.”
- Requiring medical professionals to dispense information about the effects of abortion-inducing drugs and the reversal of such.
The latter bill was drafted by the Alabama Pro-life Coalition in collaboration with the Southeast Law Institute, and introduced by state Rep. Kerry Rich.
Johnston explained the bill would require abortion providers to tell women that the intended effects of the medication-induced abortion may be reversible by forgoing the second of two Mifepristone pills required, according to the language of the proposed bill.
“The effort to protect unborn life and to enhance the healthcare of the pregnant woman is an ongoing process,” Johnston said in a memo from the Southeast Law Institute. “We will continue to work toward these goals until someday sanity for the sanctity of the unborn life will be restored.”