In order to prevent abortion clinic attacks, let’s get rid of abortion clinics.

No, I’m not arguing that we shut down access to abortion; quite the contrary. It’s the exiling of abortion care from private OB/GYN clinics and hospitals that imperils the safety of abortion providers and their patients. This exile encourages all of us to see abortion as a qualitatively different kind of women’s health care, while also making it super-easy for protesters and domestic terrorists to target.

The recent terrorist attacks on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs is drawing a great deal of sympathetic attention because none of the three of the fatalities were seeking abortions or providing abortion care themselves; two–Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, and Jennifer Markovsky, 35, were there to support friends who were patients, and the other, Garrett Swasey, was a first-responder and local Church leader. All of the victims were parents of young children.

Indeed, the coverage of their deaths has emphasized that “Family [was] a priority for those killed in Planned Parenthood Shooting,” as though that itself is news. For the first time, it seems that more Americans might realize that anti-abortion violence is indiscriminate and endangers whole communities, not just slutty-slutty-slutsluts and those who offer them health care–the implication being that these are the kind of people for whom family was not a priority.

Something else that seems to underline the common horror of this incident of domestic terrorism is that all of the victims were people who conformed pretty closely to idealized gender stereotypes:  Markovsky is remembered as a devoted mother who didn’t work outside her home; Stewart was an Iraq War veteran who is credited with saving lives by using his military training to warn people inside the clinic before he succumbed to his injuries, and Swasey is now hailed as the heroic first-responder who wasn’t even required to respond because he was an officer for the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus and not on the municipal police force.  Yes, even virtuous mothers, patriotic soldiers, and police officers are vulnerable to right-wing domestic terrorism.

Those of us who support abortion rights have known all along that the kinds of people who get and provide abortions have families too; they have children, and parents, and partners who are newly terrified each time an abortion clinic is bombed or shot up.  (Interestingly, it’s also abortion protesters who get abortions, too–I’ve made this point on-blog for years now as it’s what I’ve heard from the abortion providers I know, but here’s more proof by Marie Myung-Ok Lee.)  It’s time to shut down these freestanding clinics that are such easy targets, and incorporate abortion care into medical clinics and hospitals.

In the 1960s, in the face of a dramatic rise in the rate of deaths due to complications from abortion, the medical establishment offered crucial support and leadership for liberalizing American abortion laws.  Now, the medical establishment must lead again by normalizing abortion care as a component of obstetrics and gynecology and offer abortions inside clinics and hospitals.

8 thoughts on “In order to prevent abortion clinic attacks, let’s get rid of abortion clinics.

  1. An in-hospital procedure would cost too much as would in-hospital clinic care (due to a variety of regulations, insurance, and other issues) but procedures could and should be performed in offices of ob/gyns, trained family practitioners, and trained nurse-practitioners. Wouldn’t it be nice if those doc in the box clinics in pharmacies that give urgent care provided both surgical and medical abortions? BTW: Many ob/gyns do perform what we are now supposed to call “terminations” in their offices but they do it only for their own patients and don’t advertise the fact because they are a) afraid of getting on kill lists b) might lose their office space if landlords fear trouble and c) may have insurance issues with this. I think the British model is a good one:


    • There are all kinds of ambulatory clinics affiliated with or even situated inside hospitals these days. I don’t think putting abortion care in a hospital setting means necessarily making it an in-patient procedure.

      Thanks for the link to the BPAS information. How refreshing to see a government-sponsored agency that’s trying to HELP people pursue the kind of health care they need. (I esp. like the button you can click about “travelling from Ireland” for an abortion.)


  2. YES. There is absolutely no reason that an OB/GYN shouldn’t be able to do simple abortion procedures in office. (And it’s possible that pharmacists could monitor chemical abortions, though probably unlikely in the US.) Many hospitals and clinics already do D&C and D&E and similar procedures for miscarriages and fetal death.

    And, of course, back in the day when abortion was illegal, hospitals took care of the aftermath of botched back-alley abortions on a far too regular basis. (I can never watch Dirty Dancing because that part of the movie is so horrific.)


  3. Most abortions in Britain happen in hospitals or National Health Service-funded clinics; places where many other procedures are also performed. There are a small number of private clinics that the NHS recognises and you can get an abortion through them (BPAS for example) – although sometimes this is just a referral service and your ‘procedure’ happens at a local hospital (most ‘procedures’ consist of being handed some pills and told to come back if you have problems, and then a return visit a few days later). And there are private clinics where you can pay for an abortion – however my impression is that this service is mainly used by Irish and other women coming from countries where abortion is not available. Many women use services like BPAS, instead of their own doctors, because they don’t want to risk being refused an abortion or don’t want the stigma etc, or for their families or others to find out (this is of course illegal, but anybody who lives in a small village knows how bollocks privacy can be).

    One of the important problems with the British system however is that you need the permission of two doctors and you need to prove that continuing with the pregnancy would severely impact your physical or mental health (there are also exceptions for babies with certain medical conditions etc). Now fortunately, many docs take the attitude that being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy will have an impact on mental health, but not all do, and some can refuse you on the grounds that you haven’t met the legal requirement.


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  5. Abortions are basic health-care and should be offered on an equal footing with other medical procedures. As you note, many hospitals already conduct a number of ambulatory care clinics for all sorts of other conditions. We’ve taken advantage of many such as our city’s hospital which incidentally also conducts abortions. Yay!

    But in the US, you’re held hostage by the anti-abortion radicals and their stranglehold on sycophantic politicians, insurers and health-care administrators as well as distastefully dictatorial church types who’ve already walled off those venues. Doctors who provides abortions frequently can’t get admitting privileges to the local hospital so how are we going to get those hospitals to open their doors to a legal and vital health care procedure? It’s a tough nut to crack.

    Every year for a week or two, a bunch of anti-abortion types picket our hospital which is on the road to the university. In an uncharacteristic manner, I gesture rudely and dismissively at all of them as I commute to campus. Bah!


  6. I have a colleague, Karissa Haugeberg, whose research looks at many aspects of how abortion has come to be structured (physically in particular spaces) and protested. I highly recommend checking out her work. Her book isn’t out yet but hopefully it will be soon. Her second project looks at how Roe v. Wade changed nursing in the 1970s and how abortions were moved into separate clinics through those changes. She can’t write her books up fast enough for me!


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