Enough is enough: Treat abortion as a medical issue before discussing it

By Bethel Habte / Columnist

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I grew up in a Christian household and learned early on that abortion was a subject best treated matter-of-factly — it’s simply immoral. But skirting around talk about abortion obstructs the path to possible solutions. 

Still, politicians and preachers alike have traditionally treated abortion similarly: conforming to moral absolutes rather than to intellectual debate. 

This paradigm might change soon, starting in Texas. 

Let’s set the scene starting on Aug. 29 in Austin, Texas, where U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down a new law that would have required abortion clinics to meet standards typical of hospital surgical centers — mainly in the form of building, equipment and staffing requirements. 

At first, the law in question seemed fair enough — hopefully, hospitals should hold to a high standard any surgery I might unfortunately need. But consider first the law’s original intent. 

If the proposed law had passed, the renovations would have come with a hefty price tag  — one that would have resulted in the closing of a vast number of abortion clinics, ultimately costing women’s healthcare far more in reduced accessibility than could be gained in remote health benefits. 

While the proposed law illustrates great setbacks in the way we approach abortions, it does, at least, make an interesting progression by insinuating that abortion clinics be treated similarly to medical centers — certainly an idea contested by some.

For the sake of a woman’s rights to health and freedom of choice, I concur. Let’s treat them similarly. 

Currently, abortion clinics are disenfranchised and disconnected from the rest of the medical network — despite the legalization of abortion in 1973

Several years after its legalization, the Hyde Amendment — enacted in 1977 — ended the allocation of federal funding for abortions outside of absolute necessity. As a result, women receiving funding through Medicaid are limited when it comes to abortions, with funding available only for cases of rape, incest or life-saving necessity. 

Not to mention that by 2005, an alarming 87 percent of U.S. counties had yet to allow for an abortion clinic to be available to their citizens. While abortion training is available to all ob/gyn residents, only about half of all residency programs provide routine training — training is only offered in an elective or opt-in manner. 

A Time article in 2013 also found that a number of factors that aim to discourage doctors from providing abortions still exist. These factors include variables like hospital bans, pressure from others in the medical setting and unwarranted malpractice suits. 

As a result, hospitals provide only four percent of abortions, leaving private clinics to provide nearly 95 percent of the remainder.

Regardless, new laws are consistently enacted by state legislatures that refuse to take these limitations into account.

Yeakel, who struck down the recent proposal requiring abortion clinics to meet surgical center standards, attempted to do the same a year ago to a law that required doctors who work at abortion clinics to maintain admitting privileges — the ability to admit patients for emergency treatment — at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic. 

That provision resulted in the number of abortion clinics in Texas falling from 41 to 19 in 2012, as it refused to acknowledge the limited number of clinics that were within a 30 mile radius of a hospital as well as the limited number of hospitals that would offer admitting privileges to doctors performing abortions. 

When it comes to the abortion debate, the issue rests not with imploring that abortion clinics meet medical standards but rather acknowledging that they are simply not within the means to do so. 

Our aim should be to integrate abortion clinics within the medical community, providing them with the same funding, insurance coverage and backing as that of other facilities that perform surgical procedures. 

After all, abortion is very much a reality of our culture — not simply a church myth. 

Write Bethel at beh56@pitt.edu

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