Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

Ohio’s oldest abortion facility closes

Abortion | The latest in a trend affecting independent abortion businesses across the country
by Leah Hickman
Posted 7/13/20, 04:14 pm

Beth Vanderkooi has personally witnessed the fallout when abortionists in Columbus, Ohio, committed medical malpractice. The executive director of Greater Columbus Right to Life once spent the night in a hospital with a woman who was hemorrhaging after a botched surgical abortion at Founder’s Women’s Health Center, the oldest abortion business in Ohio. Pro-life advocates stationed outside of the facility could tell something was wrong with the woman as soon as she left the building: She was bleeding so heavily that blood had soaked through her clothes.

“They’ve had a lot of problems for a long time,” Vanderkooi said of Founder’s.

The abortion business closed this month after 47 years in operation. Its founder and the first person to perform a legal abortion in Ohio, Harley Blank, lost his license in 2018 after state officials uncovered his history of medical malpractice. The state soon afterward forced Founder’s to give up its surgical license. Since then, it only has offered abortion via the abortion pill. Founder’s saw its last patients on Thursday. It joins a growing list of independent abortion businesses that have shuttered across the country.

Vanderkooi and her organization have worked to close Founder’s since 2013. She said local pro-life advocates took a multi-tiered approach to weaken its influence in the city: counseling women, praying, and educating the community. Greater Columbus Right to Life pointed women to publicly available information about the shady history at Founder’s, including its failure to pass recent health inspections, the former employment of a known child sex offender, and Blank’s history of botched abortions.

“Abortion is not bad because it happens in filthy and illegal circumstances, but because it is bad it often happens in filthy and illegal circumstances,” Vanderkooi said.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio tried to spin the narrative away from medical malpractice, saying Founder’s closed because many staff members retired and not because of “any state actions, legislative or administrative.” But pro-abortion groups have blamed governmental regulations for the shuttering of abortion businesses in other areas.

“Medically unnecessary abortion restrictions and financial barriers make it challenging for many clinics to keep their doors open at all,” a 2019 report from the Abortion Care Network claimed. The report noted that the majority of facility closures have been among independent abortion providers rather than chains such as Planned Parenthood. The number of independent abortion businesses decreased by more than 32 percent between 2012 and November 2019—from 510 to 344—and 26 of the closures happened last year, according to the report.

As the number of independent facilities shrinks nationwide, Planned Parenthood is increasing its market share in the abortion industry. Earlier this year, the Heritage Foundation’s Melanie Israel released a report showing how the nation’s largest abortion provider has solidified its top spot in the industry. She noted that while the abortion rate is decreasing, the number of abortions at Planned Parenthood facilities is going up, and the organization went from accounting for 32 percent of abortions in 2005 to 52 percent in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We kind of look at Planned Parenthood as being the face of the abortion industry, but there are other … independent groups that do this,” Israel said. “They don’t have the same kind of footprint as Planned Parenthood. They’re not running a kind of political action committee on the side. … They basically don’t have the financial power that Planned Parenthood has to be able to expand.”

Planned Parenthood’s takeover has led to some tension with independent abortion providers. “Planned Parenthood’s brand recognition often draws support and dollars away from non-affiliated local clinics operating in rural regions without institutional support,” feminist Jessica Crispin wrote.

Competition with the Columbus Planned Parenthood did not cause Founder’s downfall, Vanderkooi said, explaining that the facility appeared to remain busy up until its closure. But the shuttering of Founder’s does mean Planned Parenthood likely will see an increase in its share of the abortion business in Ohio’s capital city—especially as the only remaining surgical abortion center in Columbus.

Leah Hickman

Leah is a WORLD Magazine reporter.

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