Hope clinicCommitted abortion clinic staff are ageing and they worry about who is going to take their place, according to an article in the Fashion and Style section of the New York Times. Anne Baker, head of counselling at Hope (sic) clinic in Granite City, Illinois, has worked there continuously since 1976. She estimates that she has done “abortion counselling” for 25,000 women and girls, some as young as 11. It has been her “dream job…standing by the side of someone who was making a decision that others would condemn her for…and say(ing), You’re a good person making a hard decision…”

The Hope clinic’s director, Sally Burgess, at 50, is the youngest person on the leadership team; the two doctors are in their 60s. A recent survey of 273 abortion clinics published in the journal Contraception found that 64 per cent of their doctors were at least 50 years old and 62 per cent were men. (Women doctors have not seen abortion as their “dream job”.) Two young women doctors came to Hope clinic to train but neither stayed. It’s a similar story at Duluth Women’s Health Centre whose boss, Tina Welsh, is 67 but has been looking for a replacement for three years.

Low pay at the nation’s 816 clinics reflects fees held down to cater for the predominantly low-income clients without health insurance. (Abortion is not publicly funded in the US — yet.) Abortion intrudes into a worker’s private life — “it will affect who you will date, the parties you will be invited to,” says Ms Burgess, who is picketed every day by protestors. There’s the risk of violence — although there has been no such incident at Hope since a firebomb and kidnap (the owner and his wife, for a week) in 1982.

However, when Ms Burgess opened a new facility in 1999 it was built like a fortress and has a concrete booth out front where an armed guard is stationed. Ms Baker says her biggest disappointment is how little has changed since the 1970s. “I used to hope that some day, instead of people being so scared and ashamed, that the taint, the stigma, would stop. It has not.”

(One can only be grateful that another generation of women are declining to spend their lives in such a dreary, dead-end and, above all, unethical job.) ~ New York Times, March 8

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet