We’re in the midst of a clinics crisis. State by state, regulations and legislation make it harder for clinics to stay open. And make no mistake: though headlines focus narrowly on only the abortion care provided at these clinics, the regulation of health centers means we’re losing much more than one procedure.
Not everyone who steps inside an abortion clinic is seeking an abortion: clinics offer basic gynecological services, STI and UTI testing, cancer screenings, pregnancy tests, contraception, family planning counseling, and educational resources. Some patrons of these clinics aren’t even women: Planned Parenthood provides health care and sexual and reproductive education to nearly five million women, men, and adolescents worldwide each year, preventing more than 684,000 unintended pregnancies annually. (And that’s just Planned Parenthood.) Clinics are valuable resources for people of various gender identities, sexes, sexual orientations, ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and religious affiliations. They provide well-rounded, complete reproductive and preventative care and often offer special services for LGBT folks and other marginalized populations such as low-income women. These clinics are safe spaces for people in often scary and unfamiliar situations, and they do work that is handled with serious care.
New insights reveal that one-third of women travel at least 25 miles to access abortion services, and the distance grows each day as clinics become more endangered. As that average travel time increases, so do the risks of unplanned pregnancies, spreading of serious and infectious disease, untreated terminal illnesses, and the dissemination of misinformation related to reproductive health; removing real women’s health clinics increases reliance on Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which are often religiously-affiliated clinics which don’t offer accurate information and are often hostile and unwelcoming to the women who are relying on them.
The care provided by clinics – be they local or part of a national network – is as comprehensive as it preventative, and without clinics it would be largely unaffordable. The women and men losing out when clinics close are predominately low-income and from urban or rural areas, and often find that without their local clinics, there are no accessible alternatives for necessary health care.