Statistically, it’s been a rough few years for the abortion-rights crowd. The numbers of abortions, abortion providers and abortion facilities have declined, and numerous polls have discovered a majority pro-life America for the first time in decades.
Perhaps worst of all, the number of medical students training to perform abortions has plummeted. As Susan Hill of the National Women’s Health Foundation told the Washington Post last year, “Our doctors are graying and are not being replaced. …The situation is grave.”
Not that pro-lifers believe this is any time to relax. Abortion remains the most common surgical procedure for American women. And many of the pro-life political gains of the last decade are being rolled back by the most pro-abortion President and Congress in history.
What’s more, as Emily Bazelon described in a recent New York Times Magazine piece titled “The New Abortion Providers,” the abortion-rights movement has embraced a bold new strategy to reverse abortion’s decline—to push abortion from the periphery to the mainstream of medicine.
The essential problem for abortion advocates is that too few ob-gyns are training to perform abortions. This is because abortion was relegated to the margins of medical practice for decades. As abortionist Warren Hern explained in 1994, “Most physicians regard abortion as a stigmatized operation done by people who are otherwise incompetent and can’t do anything else.”
So, abortion activists have been trying to attract young doctors, Bazelon writes, by building “residency programs and fellowships at university hospitals, with the hope that, eventually, more and more doctors will use their training to bring abortion into their practices.”
They’ve started groups like Medical Students for Choice, and pushed for institutional changes such as requiring that ob-gyn residencies train for abortion in order to receive accreditation.
Another way abortion rights activists have tried to make baby-killing more attractive to young doctors is by shifting where abortions are performed—from stand alone facilities like Planned Parenthood to hospitals, where abortionists and their victims cannot be easily identified by pro-life protestors.
The specter of anti-abortion violence is present throughout Bazelon’s piece. Just as the liberal media have taken a few instances of racially insensitive signs at Tea Party events to try to impugn the whole movement as racist, abortion advocates have long exploited the unacceptable instances of abortion violence to malign the entire pro-life cause.
Bazelon mentions last year’s George Tiller murder and the 1993 murder of abortionist David Gunn. She even describes how a young abortionist dreamt she had been blown up in a clinic bombing.
But pro-life violence is remarkably rare, and is rightly condemned by the pro-life community without hesitation. The National Abortion Federation cites only a few violent incidents and one lethal attack, Tiller’s murder, over the last decade.
It is more likely that the increasingly discernible violence of abortion has prompted more soul searching even among young pro-choice doctors. As former NARAL head Kate Michelman wrote last year, “[Ultrasound] technology has clearly helped to define how people think about a fetus as a full, breathing human being.”
Bazelon reassures readers that only doctors who want to train and perform abortions will have to. “Medical residents with a moral or religious objection can always choose not to participate in abortion training,” she writes.
But there is ample evidence that abortion will be forced on doctors and hospitals. As American Values’ writer Daniel Allott and attorney Matt Bowman wrote last fall in the Catholic World Report, “The shrinking number of doctors willing to perform or train for abortions has made mainstreaming the procedure a matter of industry survival. And it has therefore made conscience protection an intolerable obstacle to the so called ‘right to access’ abortion.”
Professional medical boards have been trying to mainstream abortion training in medical schools for years. In 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) stated that healthcare providers may not exercise their right of conscience if it would “constitute an imposition of religious or moral beliefs on patients.”
President Obama says he supports “robust” conscience protections, but he overturned a Bush provision to enforce conscience protections at the federal level. Under Obamacare, which passed without a conscience clause, it is likely pro-life doctors will be forced to assist in abortions or risk losing their jobs.
“The bold idea at the heart of this effort,” Bazelon wrote in her New York Times piece, “is to integrate abortion so that’s it’s a seamless part of health care for women—embraced rather than shunned. This is the future. Or rather, one possible future.”
But the most important effect of the abortion-movement’s strategy to impose abortion will be to force pro-life doctors and hospitals to choose between participating in the moral evil of abortion and abandoning the field.
If that future becomes reality, the “bold idea” of mainstreaming abortion will result in the shunning of doctors who take seriously their oath to “first, do no harm.” And that would be a tragedy of the first order.