Are There Ever Enough Abortions For The ACLU?


Anna Paprocki Staff Attorney, Americans United For Life
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According to a lawsuit filed recently by the Washington State American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), when abortions are rare, that poses a legal problem. At least that seems to be the conclusion of a lawsuit filed against Skagit Regional Health “accused” of harming no patient nor refusing any services.

No evidence is presented that Skagit Regional Health has denied or interfered with any woman’s freedom to choose abortion. The “problem” seems to be that there are just not enough dead babies at its facilities for the ACLU’s liking.

The ACLU’s complaint alleges that Skagit Regional Health has violated the so-called “Reproductive Privacy Act” of 1991 and “deprived” plaintiff Kevan Coffey “of her fundamental right to choose or refuse to terminate a pregnancy.” However, Ms. Coffey has never actually sought or been denied an abortion by any of Skagit Regional Health’s facilities. The ACLU presents no evidence that any woman has ever been denied an abortion by the hospital or its affiliated clinics.

The ACLU knows that Skagit Regional Health neither prohibits performing abortions nor has a policy against performing abortions; it admits to that in its complaint.

What makes the ACLU hopping mad is that women disproportionately seek life-affirming care at Skagit Regional Health.

The damning facts, according to the ACLU’s complaint, are that in 2012 Skagit Valley Hospital delivered 1,200 babies. Additionally, the Family Birth Center “provides wide-ranging services specifically for women, including pre- and post-pregnancy care.”

In contrast, the hospital does not appear to dispense chemical abortion drugs and “rarely perform[s] surgical abortions.”

The ACLU argues this fails to meet the Reproductive Privacy Act’s requirement that if the state provides maternity care benefits, services, or information “the state shall also provide … substantially equivalent benefits, services or information to permit [women] to voluntarily terminate their pregnancies.”

It seems that nothing short of Skagit Regional Health redirecting its resources to a new Abortion Ward, at the expense of its other care, would satisfy the ACLU’s understanding of this provision. Perhaps the ACLU wants hospital employees to pressure their pregnant patients into aborting their obviously wanted children.

In addition to the irony that the ACLU’s demand for greater public participation in abortion is based on a so-called “right to privacy,” the ACLU’s perception ignores the real needs of Washington State’s women.

There is a far greater demand for the maternity care offered by Skagit Regional Health than there is for abortion. The women of Washington State — just like U.S. women as a whole — disproportionately seek life-affirming care over abortion when they are pregnant.

The trend towards choosing life in Washington State has been dramatic since the so-called “Reproductive Privacy Act” was passed in 1991. The abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age) has dropped from 25.7 percent in 1991, to 12.8 percent in 2013.

While the demand for abortion has sharply decreased, the need for maternity care has increased. In 1991, there were 79,468 babies born in Washington State compared to 30,390 abortions, or 2.6 live births for every 1 abortion. In 2013, there were 86,566 babies born in Washington State compared to 17,431 abortions. Today, Washington’s pregnant women are choosing life 5 to 1.

At the same time, the documented evidence of abortion’s harm to women has grown. For example, the link between having an induced abortion and subsequent preterm birth (a birth occurring three or more weeks before the due date of the baby) is now recognized in over 120 peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Although Ms. Coffey is quoted in an ACLU press release as saying “I want to make sure that women throughout Washington have access to the full range of reproductive health care services,” the ACLU lawsuit is not actually arguing that there is a problem with “access” to abortion in Skagit County. Notably, Planned Parenthood performs abortions a mere half mile away from the Skagit Valley Hospital — a two minute drive or a ten minute walk.

The ACLU lawsuit is a waste of the legal system’s time and their demands are for a misuse of limited health care resources. No ludicrous law lobbied for by the abortion industry or desperate litigation can change the truth that abortion and maternal care are simply not “substantially equivalent.”

The ACLU lawsuit illustrates how far outside the mainstream – and reason – is the abortion lobby’s commitment to abortion. The case is about coercion, not choice. No frivolous lawsuit can hide the fact that the women who go to Skagit Regional Health choose life-affirming health care for their babies. Shouldn’t that please the pro-choice lobby?