This is the first blog in a three-part series on why anti-abortion politicians want to keep Planned Parenthood from accepting Medicaid. The next two blogs will be about why Planned Parenthood provides abortion, and why people use Medicaid for preventive care at Planned Parenthood health centers.
Abortion is very safe and very common. In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly one in four women will have an abortion in their lifetime. This number might not even capture everyone who gets abortions, such as people who don’t identify as women and other populations that have historically been left out of data collection.
With such a common procedure, you’d think that most doctors’ offices would provide abortion. The fact is, though, most don’t. Given restrictions on who can provide abortion, only about 5% of abortions in America are provided in private physicians’ offices or hospitals. While seven in 10 OB-GYNs report seeing patients who wanted an abortion, only one in four of those doctors provide abortion.
So, why is it that most people who need an in-clinic abortion come to Planned Parenthood health centers and other abortion providers — even if they have an OB-GYN they regularly see elsewhere?
1. There Are a Limited Number of Health Care Providers Who Offer Abortion
Many medical schools don’t include routine instruction on abortion. That means relatively few doctors are trained to provide the essential health-care service.
Federal restrictions on medication abortion limit the number of health care providers who can prescribe mifepristone, one of two pills in a medication abortion. These medically unnecessary restrictions keep otherwise trained providers from offering critical abortion services.
Many doctors also are unable or unwilling to make abortion part of their practice considering the significant efforts that abortion providers like Planned Parenthood take to keep patients and providers safe from protesters — such as providing clinic escorts.
Is Abortion Legal in My State?
See your state’s current abortion laws — and learn how access to abortion would change if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
2. Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers (TRAP Laws)
In many states, abortion is highly restricted, with arbitrary rules that have no medical grounding. These made up and medically unneccesary regulations can grow so onerous that providing abortion means providers first need to get special licenses and build expensive structures to meet medically unnecessary facility requirements — including rules on hallway width or procedure-room size. Even with compliance, doctors may then need to submit to medically unnecessary inspections and adhere to extensive reporting requirements.
This is not doable for all providers and the failure to comply with these burdensome requirements has led to health care center closures. In 2017, 89% of U.S. counties lacked a facility that provided abortions — and out of the total U.S. population, nearly 40% of women ages 15-44 lived in those counties without an abortion provider. Over time, the number of abortion providers have particularly decreased in the South and Midwest. It’s a lot.
3. The Title X Gag Rule Contributes to Abortion Stigma
Limited numbers of abortion providers and TRAP laws show why abortion has been pushed to the sidelines of the U.S. health care system. In addition, government regulations has treated abortion as something separate from health care.
Since 2019, the Title X gag rule prohibited health care providers who receive federal funding from the Title X program from even discussing abortion with their patients. This restriction limits information on abortion care and contributes to abortion stigma.
The gag rule forced places that provide both preventive health care and abortion — like Planned Parenthood — out of Title X. Thankfully, we’re now seeing the beginning of the end of the Title X gag rule.
4. Abortion Access Is Central to Planned Parenthood’s Mission — But Not All Health Care Providers’ Missions
Another reason why finding an abortion provider isn’t always easy: Abortion access and rights are not part of the mission of many health care providers.
Planned Parenthood believes all people should have the health care and information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams — no ceilings, no limits. Defending people from political attacks on their bodily autonomy is embedded in Planned Parenthood’s culture. Advocacy for the protection and expansion of sexual and reproductive freedom is CENTRAL to Planned Parenthood’s mission.
A snapshot of what that mission looks like in action: Imagine Planned Parenthood lawyers arguing cases at courts throughout the country and Planned Parenthood lobbyists talking with members of Congress — all while grassroots activists, parents, faith leaders, and other supporters advocate for reproductive health and rights in their communities and online.
Bottom Line: Abortion Services Are Health Care and Should Be Accessible — Not Scarce or Limited.
Everyone should be free to make health care decisions about their body and their future. The ability to access safe, legal abortion is every person's right. Planned Parenthood will always be here for you — supporting you and providing you with care and resources you need to live the life you deserve.
If this blog speaks to you, then take two actions:
Learn about the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which will protect the right to access abortion care throughout the United States by safeguarding access against abortion bans and medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion.
If you see a primary care physician or other doctor who is not a Planned Parenthood provider, consider starting a conversation about abortion. Knowing what you know now, ask if they received training in abortion or if they provide abortions.
This is one small step toward expanding the conversation on abortion and reducing abortion stigma.
Become an Action Fund Associate Member
Your support and involvement will help make sure that the Planned Parenthood Action Fund continues to be a strong and powerful voice for reproductive health care in the United States.