Doctors See Economic Impact on Abortion, Birth Control
NP Sharon Spiller, left, and PA Tiernie Garbers, right, work in a lab at the Planned Parenthood of East Central Iowa (Source: AP)
David Crary And Melanie S. Welte, Associated Press
March 25, 2009
The pregnant woman showed up at the medical center in flip-flops and in tears, after walking there to save bus fare.
Her boyfriend had lost his job, she told her doctor in Oakland, and now — fearing harder times for her family — she wanted to abort what would have been her fourth child.
“This was a desired pregnancy — she’d been getting prenatal care — but they re-evaluated expenses and decided not to continue,” said Dr. Pratima Gupta. “When I was doing the options counseling, she interrupted me halfway through, crying, and said, ‘Dr. Gupta, I just walked here for an hour. I’m sure of my decision.”’
Other doctors are hearing similarly wrenching tales. For many Americans, the recession is affecting their most intimate decisions about sex and family planning. Doctors and clinics are reporting that many women are choosing abortions and men are having vasectomies because they cannot afford a child.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois clinics performed an all-time high number of abortions in January, many of them motivated by the women’s economic worries, said CEO Steve Trombley, who declined to give exact numbers. Abortions at Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis-area clinics were up nearly 7% in the second half of 2008 from a year earlier — ending a stretch in which the numbers were dwindling.
Planned Parenthood said it has no up-to-date national abortion figures, nor do other private or government agencies. However, Stephanie Poggi of the National Network of Abortion Funds, which helps women in need pay for abortions, said calls to the network’s national helpline have nearly quadrupled from a year ago.
“A lot of women who never thought they’d need help are turning to us,” Poggi said. “They’re telling us, ’I’ve already put off paying my rent, my electric bill. I’m cutting back on my food.’ They’ve run through all the options.”
Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, said her organization’s helpline is receiving many calls from women who postponed an abortion while trying to raise money to pay for it. Such delays often mean riskier abortions at even higher cost — the price can double in the second trimester.
Among the women recently obtaining financial aid was Lalita Peterson, 23, of Painesville, Ohio, who in a thank-you note described the partial subsidy of her abortion at Cleveland’s Preterm clinic as “probably the only relief I’ve felt during this very lonely time.”