Ever since Roe v. Wade, the existence of abortion clinics has been considered a victory for women's equality. The downside is that they've also provided a broad, ready target for the anti-abortion movement. Protesters focus their bullying and harassment and violence on the clinics. Legislators craft regulations that put the doctors out of business.
Yesterday in Virginia, Democrats seem to have sleep-walked or fumbled or something'd their way to allowing passage of a bill that says the clinics have to be regulated like hospitals. The New York Times says that could lead to the closure of most of the state's clinics. Some of them are in small offices that would be difficult or impossible to retrofit according to hospital specs. Others of them just don't have the money to deal with a new layer of regulation.
Among the next steps for the pro-choice movement has to be getting abortion services out of full-time abortion clinics and into more general practices. The Guttmacher Institute says that something like one in three American women will choose an abortion by age 45 -- it's part of many, many women's medical histories. It is a medical service, and it shouldn't be relegated to the margins, to a separate category.
Moving abortion services into general practices would make it harder for protesters to target the doctors and the women -- you can't reasonably expect to shutter every doctor in town, nor will the other patients put up with it. And it makes it harder for lawmakers to regulate the service out of existence. Virginia's new bill, which the anti-abortion governor says he'll sign, applies to clinics that perform five or more first-term abortions in a month. You'd more likely find that in a clinic that focuses on abortion, than in a family GP's office that also offers abortions.
And yet. This transition toward family practices including abortions has not been easy on the first doctors willing to make it. We've been following the story of Dr. Mila Means, a family doctors in Wichita, Kansas, who's willing to become the first abortion provider since Dr. George Tiller was murdered in 2009. Because she'd be the first, she has become a target. Her clinic now receives all kinds of patients -- little kids with strep throat, older people in for this or that checkup, and she's not proving abortion. But for the Operation Rescue folks up above, Dr. Means' friendly family practice is now a "proposed new abortion mill" complete with anti-abortion pickets. They're transforming her practice for her, for their own purposes.