It had been decades since the days when hospitals used to be the sole provider of pregnancy termination services, and almost as long since most of them ceased offering any form of elective abortions at all. The main reason that hospitals stopped providing abortions, besides the lower cost options available at stand alone clinics, is their unhappiness with the protests and targeting that often went hand in hand with being a public abortion provider.
Some hospitals, however, are still the target of abortion protests, even though they don’t offer elective procedures at all. For many abortion opponents, doing anything that could be seen as allowing abortion clinics to continue to operate is as bad as offering the service itself.
Crestwood Medical Center in Huntsville, Ala., is about to be at the center of such a protest. Led by Rev. James Henderson of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, the hospital is being accused of “supporting the abortion industry” by having doctors on staff who also do terminations at a local clinic. Rev. Henderson announced that there will be protests at the hospital on October 21, and that State Sen. Shadrack McGill (R-Macedonia) supports their actions.
McGill, a Tea Party Republican and “personhood” supporter, once bemoaned that people are fined for destroying eagle eggs but not for ending pregnancies.
Crestwood vehemently denies that they are “supporting” abortion. “As we have said previously, when confronted with similar misstatements, we would like to reaffirm that abortions are not performed at Crestwood Medical Center,” the hospital said in a statement to AL.com. “Further, there is no formal nor informal connection between the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives and Crestwood Medical Center. The hospital does not control what independent physicians, licensed by the state of Alabama, do or do not do in their private practice. We are deeply concerned with the gross mischaracterization of the services that are rendered at Crestwood Medical Center.”
Hospital protests were once popular with those who opposed abortions, but had mostly disappeared once abortions were no longer performed at the facilities. As more states have introduced legislation forcing clinics or doctors to have admitting privileges with a local hospital, however, we can expect an uptick in these sorts of actions. Just as hospitals largely backed out of elective abortions due to public pressure, anti-choice activists hope to see the same sort of pressure work when it comes to forcing them to cut off all ties with anyone who provides terminations.
Transfer agreements bring in very little, if anything, financially for a hospital that participates, making them the perfect pressure point for abortion opponents to hit in order to cut off access. A hospital that receives no financial benefit from an agreement and can lose business over protests will be far less willing to enter into or continue an agreement. A private hospital has no reason to keep an agreement in the face of pressure from outside groups, and a religious entity would never have entered into such an agreement in the first place. That would only leave public hospitals as options when it comes to seeking out a state mandated transfer agreement and, as we saw in Ohio, laws can be written to exclude those hospitals as well.
That Rev. Henderson and his supporters announced a plan to protest the hospital, rather than simply protesting it, is the sign that a trial balloon is being released when it comes to taking the abortion battle to the doors of hospitals. If the hospital caves, more such actions will be planned across the country, and immediately. However, if Crestwood continues to release statements accusing the group of “mischaracterizing” them by saying they support abortion, anti-choice activists still win, and the divide between abortion services and the rest of the medical profession will continue to grow, stigmatizing the procedure and the people who perform it or undergo it even further than before.
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