The recent closing of a Washington state abortion clinic may be a reflection of a national drop in the demand for abortion among women ages 15 to 44.
Feminist Women’s Health Center, one of two abortion clinics in Yakima, Wash., closes its doors today after 31 years. A drop in clients prompted the clinic’s closure.
“There isn’t the patient volume for two main providers,” founder Beverly Whipple told the Yakima Herald- Republic.
Skip Schoff, vice president of Christian Broadcasting of Yakima praised the closing saying, “I couldn’t be happier.” He also told the publication that he is praying for the closure of every abortion clinic in America.
Public opinion suggests abortion is increasingly unpopular among Americans. A Gallup poll released in May 2009 found that 51 percent of Americans called themselves “pro-life” on issues of abortion, compared to 42 percent of those who considered themselves “pro-choice.”
In announcing their findings, the Gallup organization said it was the first time a majority of U.S. adults had identified themselves as pro-life since they began asking the abortion question in 1995.
State and national statistics also offer evidence that more Americans have an unfavorable view of abortion.
State health department statistics show that Washington women are having fewer abortions. The reported rate of abortions among women of childbearing age, 15 to 44, was 16.7 for every 1,000 women in 2009. That’s down from 18 per 1,000 women in 2008.
Among Washington adolescents, abortion in 2009 was down to 17 per 1,000 teenage girls aged 15 to 19. In 2008 there were 19 abortions per 1,000 teenage girls.
Similar dips have been seen in national abortion statistics. In a report of abortion trends from 1974 to 2004, reproductive health policy group the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that the recent rate of abortions for women ages 15 to 44 has dropped 33 percent to 20 abortions per 1,000 women from its height of 29 abortions in 1980.
According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of abortions between 1997 and 2006 declined nearly nine percent compared to the previous ten years.
"I do see from everything I see and read that Americans are turning away from abortion," said Cathy Ruth, senior fellow of legal studies at the Family Research Council.
Ruth believes this trend is a response to post abortive women speaking up, the partial-birth abortion debate and increased access to ultrasound images. Ruth quotes pregnancy center CareNet in a study stating that 80 percent of near-abortion patients changed their minds after seeing an ultrasound.
"An ultrasound image brings you face to face with humanity," said Ruth.
The drop in abortions has meant a drop in business for abortion clinics. The National Coalition of Abortion Providers says independent clinics are struggling to compete with Planned Parenthood. However, Planned Parenthood has also had to close some branches.
Just two months ago, Planned Parenthood of Lawrence, Kansas, closed its doors. A notice in the window of the widow read, “It appears the need for our services is not as great as it once was and it is no longer financially feasible to continue offering those services. We are sorry for the inconvenience this may cause you.”
Despite news of decreased abortions, AGI CEO and President Sharon L. Camp has warned that the reduction in abortions is not even across age, race and economic groupings.
“Many Americans will welcome the news that there are fewer abortions, particularly among teens," said Camp in a 2008 statement.
"But at the same time, abortions are becoming more concentrated among women of color and low-income women,” she countered.
The CDC’s findings also report high abortion rates among women in their early 20s.
Kansans for Life President Kathy Ostrowski says young women need to get help from their families and pro-life physicians.
“We recommend pregnant women of any age consult the Pregnancy Care Center of Lawrence where they can obtain physician-reviewed ultrasounds and assistance for a variety of needs,” stated Ostrowski.
Meanwhile, Whipple said Feminist Women’s Health Center will continue to host events and answer health questions over the phone even after it closes.