By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
Though recent statistics show the number of chemical or “medication” abortions rising, to the point that they now account for more than half of those performed in the U.S., those same statistics still indicate that the vast majority of abortions are done through high-volume abortion mega-centers.
And for the first time in years, the number of abortion “providers” has shown an increase.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not track the number of abortionists, the Guttmacher Institute does. Its most recent report showed the number of “providers” increasing, reversing a long-term downward trend.
The correspondence of this reverse and increase with newly rising abortion numbers is likely not coincidental. That Guttmacher saw and tracked these new “providers” may be why their 2020 abortion survey picked up more abortions while the CDC’s showed a decrease.
After dropping to a level not seen since the earliest days of Roe, the number of abortion providers Guttmacher identified showed an increase, going from 1,587 in 2017 to 1,603 in 2020, a small but significant increase. Though still far below the high of 2,918 seen in 1982, the new vector for both abortions and abortionists is disturbing.
Facilities and “providers” performing abortions
Few of the abortions Guttmacher recorded were done at hospitals (3%) or physician’s private offices (1%), as has been the case for years now. There appears, however, to have been a slight shift from what Guttmacher calls “abortion clinics” (clinics largely devoted to abortion) to those “non-specialized clinics” which offer abortions as one service among others.
Guttmacher doesn’t say so, but this would generally fit the standard Planned Parenthood clinic, where abortion might be the primary money-making product, but others services like contraception are offered.
“Abortion clinics” were responsible for 60% of abortions in 2017, but dropped nearly 20,000 abortions to represent 54% of the 2020 total. Non-specialized clinics added more than 92,000 abortions, increasing from 35% to 43% of abortions.
So practically, once the pandemic hit, this means more abortions being done by chains like Planned Parenthood.
High-volume clinics handle the bulk
Caseload figures show an increasing percentage of abortions being performed by high-volume clinics.
Sixty percent of the abortions Guttmacher recorded in 2020 were performed at clinics reporting between a thousand and 4,999 abortions a year. An additional 15% were performed at clinics performing five thousand or more abortions a year.
This means that 693,730 out of the 930,160 abortions recorded by Guttmacher for 2020 — or about three-quarters of the total — occurred at these high-volume clinics.
There were the same number of the giant abortion mega-centers –those performing 5,000 a year or more. However there was an increase of 20 clinics performing 1,000 to 4,999 abortions a year in 2020 than there were in 2017.
This means twenty new clinics in America in 2020 performing somewhere between three and thirteen abortions a day.
What these statistics tell us about the industry
These latest statistics are an indication that, at least among recorded abortions, the bulk are being done among large “providers,” as has long been the case but maybe even more so today.
If so, most abortions are not being done by small, independent “providers,” but by “Big Abortion” – major established abortionists running large abortion mills in big cities or large national abortion chains such as Planned Parenthood.
Given that more than half of all abortions now involve abortion pills (it was 39% just three years earlier) and that these high-volume clinics accounted for three-quarters of all the country’s abortions in 2020, chemical abortions must have played a major role in the growth of these clinics.
This means that these mega-clinics had to focus a greater proportion of their facilities and staffing on the on-site delivery or remote management of abortion pills and patients.
It is important to note that there were several very important recent modifications in the chemical abortion protocol of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA dropped the number of required visits and allowed telemedicine and home delivery of pills by mail.
These changes reduced the burden on abortion pill prescribers, making it easier for clinics to manage these cases and build this volume.
Unless there are a lot more private practice physicians adding chemical abortions to their practices or women buying abortion pills from overseas and being missed by Guttmacher’s data collectors, this means that abortion performance and advocacy still tend to be concentrated among a few of the nation’s bigger abortion facilities and the abortionists who run them.
And chemical abortion has been key to their expansion and continued profitability.
Tomorrow, in Part Four, we’ll talk about how these latest abortion trends played out in different states and regions of the country.
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