It’s been almost 40 years since since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on Jan. 22, 1973, galvanizing people on both sides. Abortion clinics sprang up across the country. The National Right to Life Committee was founded. Opponents and proponents girded for an epic conflict.
But today, the battle is a slog of legislative fights and piecemeal regulations. Here, in a city where the battle over abortion was frequently and sometimes violently joined, combatants on both sides agree: They are dead-tired of the struggle over this clinic’s existence.
Claire Keyes, the longtime director of the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center, recalls thinking that the Supreme Court had settled the abortion argument, once and for all. “When I came into the clinic for the first time, the feeling that we had was this sense of giddiness,” she said. “Women had gained the right to control their own destiny.”
That was then. This is now.
As the 40th anniversary of Roe approaches, Keyes is fearful about the future of abortion rights — and the clinic.
“It’s never been this frightening before,” she said. “I don’t know if we’re going to make it.”
A Pennsylvania law passed in 2011 requires surgical abortion clinics to become certified as ambulatory surgical centers and meet other rules.
Eight of Pennsylvania’s 22 surgical abortion providers failed to gain approval under the new law.
They can offer medical abortions, using a prescription drug, but not perform surgical procedures. To comply with the regulations, abortion clinics will need to install hospital-grade elevators and have a set number of parking spaces.
“Sometimes I think the regulations are what will actually get us, more than what we saw in the early years,” said Thompson, one of the clinic’s three doctors. He’s in his late 60s and isn’t sure who will take his place when he retires.
Pennsylvania had 50 providers of abortion care in 2008, an 11 percent decrease since 2005, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
With other clinics closing and the facility she spent three decades directing in jeopardy, Keyes now finds it difficult to find the optimism she has held for decades.
And at every turn, states are making abortion increasingly impossible for women to get, and increasingly impossible to provide. Nobody seems to care much, frankly. Republicans are passing rafts of abortion measures in state after state.
But frankly, the vast majority of women don't have access to abortions, not without an increasingly crazy maze of social shaming, expensive multiple trips, and assumption of mental incompetence that they are unable to make decisions about their own body. The same "small government" types have no problem using the full power of the state to legislate morality.
Funny how that works.