by Gail Quinn
January 5, 2001
On my desk sits a statute of a woman holding little children. Called "The Story Teller," it was a Christmas gift intended originally for Bishop James McHugh, who died on December 10. I am honored to have it. For him it might have been a reminder of a bishop's special responsibility to be a teacher of the faith. For me it's a reminder that others of us teach as well. And that an effective way to do so is by telling a story.
In The New York Times on December 30, reporter Gina Kolata tells an important story--the story of abortion as big business. As the story unfolds, so too does a picture of an industry that is highly lucrative, cut-throat and sleazy.
"Pro-choice" groups are forever complaining there there are not enough abortion clinics and too few doctors willing to do abortions. According to Kolata's report, however, there are too many abortion clinics, and they cluster in population centers in order to attract as many customers as possible.
Fierce competition over fees is reported. One clinic cuts the selling price of an abortion, then another quickly follows suit, as they fight to attract an ever-dwindling supply of patients. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, between 1990 and 1997 the number of abortions declined 17.4 percent, while the number of clinics remained constant. Dr. Warren Hern, whose clinic in Boulder Colorado specializes in late-term abortions (intentionally, he admits, to corner this share of the abortion market), told the reporter that "the competition for patients is absolutely ruthless."
Not long ago, in their campaign to fill the "need" for more abortion doctors, abortion activists tried to get the federal government to force all medical schools to teach abortion. Yet, Kolata reports that "Doctors have refused to train colleagues, fearing they will only help a potential competitor in a lucrative, often cash-only business." Ron Fitzsimmons, who heads the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, says that "There are places in this country where there are more doctors who perform abortions looking for work than we can handle."
Dr. William Ramos, who runs an abortion clinic in Las Vegas, says he thinks the only thing keeping more doctors from doing abortions is the social stigma. Ramos says he's pleased with his career choice because "there is less work and more income" than in other jobs. He reportedly does about 3,000 abortions a year at $300 each. Do the math. That's pushing a million dollars. According to Kolata, few who do abortions want to talk about how lucrative it is, but clinic owners and abortionists agree that one can make "several hundred thousand dollars a year working part-time."
Planned Parenthood, with the largest chain of abortion clinics in the country, is seen as the bully on the abortion block. Because its "non-profit" foundation can subsidize its clinics, Planned Parenthood's prices can undercut others. One abortionist likened Planned Parenthood to "Wal-Mart coming in and taking over from all the mom and pops."
Clinic operators say they will make the new abortion pill available, but worry about it eating into their profits. The going cost, about $270, has to cover the three-pill regimen plus three office visits, lab work and counseling. Kolata says some have found "creative solutions" to this new threat to profits. For example, Renee Chelian, a clinic operator in Detroit, is reportedly considering giving women one pill instead of the three required and, reported Kolata, "having them sign a form saying they understand that one pill is not the approved dose but that studies have shown that one pill is effective. Then she can charge them just $80 more than for a surgical abortion." Others say they might use it as a "loss leader"-- advertise its availability to attract women to the clinic, but then try to sell them a more lucrative surgical abortion. The Better Business Bureau calls this "bait and switch," and in regulated businesses--which abortion is not--it is against the law.
Abortion has taken a terrible toll on our nation. Millions of children have lost their lives to it. Millions of women have been vicitimized by it. And in its wake of destruction we have become a society a little more coarse, a little less caring. And while those who champion it and those who provide it promote their message in language meant to soothe and to obscure, abortion is turning clinic owners and third-rate doctors into millionaires.
Abortion is a very big business with a bottom line like any other big business--money.
Gail Quinn is Executive Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.