In the past few years, even as voters have rejected so-called “personhood” measures and scorned politicians who make insensitive remarks about rape, the anti-choice movement has quietly and steadily made it more difficult for women to access abortion care. They have done this in part by pushing through “targeted regulation of abortion providers” (TRAP) laws aimed at shutting down abortion providers, as well as laws requiring unnecessary waiting periods for women seeking abortions or restricting the safe use of medication abortion. The Guttmacher Institute found that more state-level abortion restrictions were enacted from 2011 through 2013 than in the entire previous decade, a trend that has continued at a slower pace in 2014.
Now, the anti-choice group Operation Rescue — which keeps thorough records of U.S. abortion providers in its effort to shut them down — is reporting that 73 abortion providers closed their doors in 2014, 60 of which were surgical abortion providers. Of those, 47 were closed permanently, making a net decrease of 31 facilities and contributing to what Operation Rescue reports is a “23% decline in surgical abortion facilities over the past five years.”
Although some of these closures were unrelated to new abortion restrictions, Operation Rescue credits the wave of state laws for many of the closures.
The group’s statistics include the 13 Texas abortion clinics closed in response to new restrictions — leaving only eight clinics serving the state of 26 million people —which were later allowed to reopen by court order, and two Alabama clinics that were also closed and then reopened.
But it also includes closures that the anti-choice movement would like to take credit for, but are less easy to track. For instance, this summer Planned Parenthood closed two small rural clinics in Iowa, for which anti-choice activists credited their prayers but Planned Parenthood attributed to a need to shift resources. Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, has been fighting to keep its ability to dispense medication for early-term abortions through teleconferencing to women living in rural areas in Iowa.