Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

Abortion pills cutting into profits

Abortion | The decline in independent abortion facilities shows a shift away from expensive late-term procedures
by Leah Hickman
Posted 1/04/21, 12:41 pm

During Noemi Padilla’s four years as an employee of Tampa Women’s Health Center in Florida, the staff checked online reviews of the facility weekly. “Under normal circumstances, if we got a bad review regarding an abortion, we would get yelled at,” Padilla remembers. But for one negative review written in November 2016, “I got kudos,” she said.

The patient had arrived for a standard well-woman exam, but Padilla said she turned her away after a long wait in the lobby, giving “her every excuse in the book.” The patient posted several one-star reviews across the internet. But Padilla said her employer praised her for doing her job because the facility had such a strong preference for doing abortions over other health services for women.

“The focus was always on the abortion,” Padilla said. “Even with self-pay or an insurance, we’re going to get minimal payment for that [gynecological service], which can potentially take a while because you never know what you’re going to find. … They’re not always so routine versus the [abortion] procedure, they’re going to get $500 for.”

Since leaving the facility in 2017, Padilla has heard similar stories from other former employees of independent abortion facilities across the country. Tampa Women’s Health Center remains open, but a new report from the Abortion Care Network shows the number of providers not affiliated with Planned Parenthood is declining across the country. Stories like Padilla’s suggest the downward trend in abortions and the shift toward the abortion pill could be fueling the closures.

According to the report, more than 120 independent abortion facilities have closed since 2015, and in 2020 the overall count fell to 337 from 510 in 2012. That shrinking number of independent facilities performs 58 percent of all abortions in the country, while abortion giant Planned Parenthood performs 37 percent. Hospitals and physicians’ offices do the rest.

Independent facilities usually specialize in later-term abortions: 62 percent of providers that offer abortions after the first trimester are independent. That number goes up to 81 percent after 22 weeks of gestation. Padilla said late-term abortions were Tampa Women’s Health Center’s “claim to fame” and that women would travel from states with stronger protections for unborn infants.

The report suggests such late-term protections are to blame for the closures, but Melanie Israel, a research associate at the Heritage Foundation, said pro-life legislation is only part of the reason why the number of independent facilities has decreased. She said causes probably vary widely state by state and much of it comes down to supply and demand. While the total number of abortions has gone down in recent years, the percentage of drug-induced abortions has risen, meaning more and more abortions happen earlier in pregnancy.

“If people have the ability to find out that they’re pregnant sooner, then they’re potentially going to be getting an abortion sooner,” Israel said. “If there’s just not a huge demand for later-term abortions … then these clinics, it’s just not financially viable for them to try to have a store front, if you will, in many locations throughout the state. There’s other overhead costs associated with that.”

The Abortion Care Network’s report presents the work of independent abortion facilities as “compassionate, patient-centered care,” but Padilla’s experience at the Tampa Women’s Health Center gave her a different perspective.

“There’s nothing compassionate about the abortion industry,” Padilla said. “Compassion is known as every pregnant woman you cater in, you want to ask about how the baby is doing and things like that …. Is it a compassionate environment where you can’t even say the word baby?”

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Leah Hickman

Leah is a reporter for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @leahmhickman.

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