New Maryland Medical Abortion Clinic Could Set New Delivery Standard For America

Donald A. Collins | 31 March 2015
Church and State

Carafem is a new abortion-pill clinic in Montgomery County that promises a “spa-like” experience for women with a open and unabashed approach to pregnancy termination. Pictured are Melissa S. Grant, the Maryland clinic’s vice president of health services, and Christopher Purdy, president and chief executive. (Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post)

A page one March 31st story in the Washington Post tells of plans to provide women a safe, convenient, very pleasant comforting space and, yes, slightly less expensive way to get an early abortion. What a great idea, worth celebrating, in a ironically backward country like the USA on social issues that should have been secularly settled decades ago if the religious crazies had not been so politically powerful.

But then the representatives they elected seemed happy to have these elected folks to their evil bidding against women who seek choice! Remember, abortion is not mandatory. Of the 40 plus million abortions which happen worldwide, only roughly half are treated safely, leaving huge numbers of women at risk. Many pay the ultimate price of death.

You can read the entire story with this prompt, but I quote parts to my further points.

With its natural wood floors and plush upholstery, Carafem aims to feel more like a spa than a medical clinic. But the slick ads set to go up in Metro stations across the Washington region leave nothing to doubt: “Abortion. Yeah, we do that.”

The Maryland clinic, opening this week in Montgomery County’s tony Friendship Heights area, specializes in the abortion pill. The advertising reflects its unabashed approach — and a new push to de-stigmatize the nation’s most controversial medical procedure by talking about it openly and unapologetically.

Plagued by political setbacks in recent years, abortion rights activists are seeking to normalize abortion, to put a human face on the women getting the procedure and, in some cases, even putting a positive spin on it.

In Los Angeles County, groups recently sent women door-to-door in conservative neighborhoods to talk about their abortion experiences in the hope of changing minds. A number of Democratic lawmakers have publicly acknowledged having undergone the procedure. And new online projects solicit personal testimonials, including from women who have no regrets about terminating their pregnancies.

At Carafem, staff members plan to greet clients with warm teas, comfortable robes and a matter-of-fact attitude.

“We don’t want to talk in hushed tones,” said Carafem President Christopher Purdy. “We use the A-word.”

The campaign comes as the abortion rights movement is struggling politically. Since 2010, states have enacted more than 200 laws restricting the procedure, and dozens of clinics have closed their doors. Groups on both sides agree that antiabortion activists have the momentum, with a simpler message — “abortion kills” — and a gut-level emotional appeal.

In fact, it is rather ironic that my wife and I just attended the annual NARAL gala held at the Arena Stage on 3/30, where horrific stories of women denied service were dramatically told.

My exposure to the choice issue came in the late 1960’s when the first liberalized abortion laws were passed in Hawaii, California, and Colorado. Then when NY passed such a law in 1971, I was involved as a foundation officer in helping fund numerous locations there and across the nation. In 1973 until the mid 1980’s, I served as the first Board Chair of what is now called Ipas, which works overseas to provide early abortion services, primarily using the safe, effective suction method. It took our small staff years to build the support and find the right approaches which Ipas now performs with huge success in dozens of countries. www.ipas.org

And, now at Ipas a third of its thousands of assisted women worldwide choose to receive medical abortions such as this new facility will offer.

The problem is one of freedom, but attitudes about abortion have been heavily festered and fostered by the fanatical religious right. Furthermore, as the Post piece tells us,

Even Americans who support abortion rights are often deeply conflicted about the procedure. Although a majority of Americans say abortion should be available in most cases, polls show roughly half of those surveyed also think abortion is morally wrong.

“Most people in this country do not think abortion is a good thing on its face, even if they deeply believe it should be legal,” said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, director of social policy and politics for Third Way, a center-left think tank.

Hatalsky praised the efforts to de-stigmatize the procedure, saying the approach is attracting a passionate new crop of young activists to the movement. Telling personal stories, she said, echoes a strategy successfully employed by the gay rights movement, helping it change public opinion by coaxing people to come out of the closet to their friends, neighbors and colleagues.

‘Gray’ areas

Groups such as Planned Parenthood are trying to walk a fine line, appealing to these young activists while also remaining palatable to the majority of Americans who are conflicted, a group that Third Way refers to as “abortion grays.”

“We still do a lot of work with people who are less supportive of abortion, and one way we need to communicate is in a more empathetic framework that kind of says, ‘Look, these are really complicated personal issues,’” Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero said.

Okay, have those discussions, but this medical abortion clinic simply in effect is saying, “you discuss this all you want to, but those women who want a safe, no hassle, non surgical procedure for slightly less money than a surgical one in a private, comforting environment where no one thinks the bi partisan failure of or absence of a contraceptive is a moral issue that should punish women but not their partners!

In fact, no one should be punished, but instead of having half of all pregnancies unintended as in the past, we get a simple safe solution, just as we would get by going to a pharmacy for a headache or other palliative medication.

Young people are getting this here as they have long gotten it in other developed countries. As the Post pieces tells us,

But “we also need to be unapologetic and bold,” Ferrero said, to connect with young people, who he said have flocked to the 100-year-old organization.

Since 2011, the number of college chapters has risen from 70 to 250.

Some of these younger activists have grown weary of what they see among their leaders as an overly apologetic attitude about abortion. That has led to some in-your-face tactics. Last year, Emily Letts, a 26-year-old actress and clinic counselor, made waves after posting a YouTube video of her surgical abortion, filmed from the waist up.

“Not everyone is sad about their abortion,” said Letts, who has attained celebrity status in the abortion rights movement. “We need to hear the full range of stories, and the positive stories are not being conveyed appropriately.”

Her three-minute video went viral and was one of two winners in the first-ever “Abortion Stigma-Busting Video Competition” sponsored by the Abortion Care Network, a Washington group devoted to “normalizing the abortion experience.”

Some mainstream abortion rights supporters have also turned to jaw-dropping tactics. Ohio state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D), in an emotional speech last week on the Ohio House floor during debate over a proposal to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, revealed her decision to terminate a pregnancy that resulted from rape.

“You don’t respect my reason. My rape. My abortion. And I guarantee you there are other women who should stand up with me and be courageous enough to speak that voice,” Fedor said in a video posted on the Toledo Blade’s Web site. “I’ve sat here too long.”

Fedor is among an estimated 1 in 3 American women who will have an abortion by the time they turn 45, according to a 2011 study by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think tank. Those statistics demand a more matter-of-fact approach, the feminist poet Katha Pollitt argues in a new book, “Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights.”

“We need to talk about ending a pregnancy as a common, even normal, event in the reproductive lives of women,” Pollitt writes, adding that the decision to abort can be “just as moral as the decision to have a child — indeed, sometimes more moral” because “part of caring for children is knowing when it’s not a good idea to bring them into the world.”

The usual religiously motivated, hysterical sounding voices from, yes, women, as well as men, will continue to cavil against choice, but if the Republican Party ever wants to take the White House again, they better convince the ill fated dominance of the religious kooks who provide too much of its base support that anti-choice is not a winning argument. Conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, who was pro choice, warned his colleagues in the mid 1970’s about taking on this crowd and look what has happened.

Carafem President Christopher Purdy,

said he got the idea for Carafem two years ago after more than a decade with DKT International, a nonprofit group that promotes family planning and HIV prevention in developing countries. Overseas, he said, getting an abortion is often as simple as visiting a pharmacy. In the United States, however, some states strictly regulate the abortion pill, citing concerns about its safety, making it virtually impossible to get in some rural areas.

“I was flabbergasted,” Purdy said, to find “that it was easier to get an abortion in Ethi­o­pia compared with the United States.”

Because Carafem will offer only the abortion pill, not vacuum aspiration or other surgical procedures, prospective clients must be no more than 10 weeks pregnant. (Roughly two-thirds of all abortions occur in the first eight weeks of pregnancy, according to Guttmacher.)

After receiving counseling and some basic tests, Carafem clients will take an initial pill at the clinic. Purdy’s team expects to get them in and out quickly, within about 60 minutes. They will be sent home with a second set of pills to take the next day. The second dose induces the abortion, which resembles a miscarriage, typically within six hours.

By offering only pharmaceutical abortions, Purdy says, he can avoid purchasing expensive surgical equipment and can keep prices low for clients. The average pharmaceutical abortion cost about $500 in the United States in 2011, Guttmacher figures show; Purdy plans to charge around $400.

Another striking aspect of the project is the design: The clinic will have wood floors and a natural wood tone on the walls that recalls high-end salons such as Aveda. Appointments, offered evenings and weekends, can be booked online or via a 24-hour hotline.

“It was important for us to try to present an upgraded, almost spa-like feel,” said Melissa S. Grant, vice president of health services for the clinic.

If the project is successful, Purdy says, he hopes to expand his model to other states.

“It’s fresh, it’s modern, it’s clean, it’s caring,” he said. “That’s the brand we’re trying to create.”

Hey, let’s hope this medical idea will expand widely and help stop the people who are crazy on the abortion choice issue, letting them and their ilk get back to helping those poor women who didn’t get a wanted abortion to care for those extra kids who once born need their care and love.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
ASIN: B00MA40TVE
Kindle Store

Back in 1991, the NGO Don Collins founded in 1976, International Services Assistance Fund (ISAF), co-produced a TV quality 22-minute film called “Whose Choice?” which Ted Turner arranged to broadcast on September 21, 1992 in prime time on his then independent Turner Broadcast System (TBS). Other outlets such as PBS and several of its affiliates Collins and his colleagues contacted then refused to run it because of its forthright treatment of the abortion issue, arguing for all women’s right to choose not to have a baby. ISAF has made a new edition of that DVD. The purpose for reissuing this 3rd version of “Whose Choice?” was simply to show the historical urgency that attended those times, still blocked and attacked over 40 years after the Roe v Wade decision in 1973. This video is available for public viewing for the first time.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for sharing this post, but I really disagree with abortion. As my point of view, it is a type of killing. If you are not ready to take baby's responsibility, then you need to take precaution before pregnancy.

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