For some abortion rights groups, this constitutes a grave crisis: "Eighty-four percent of counties in the United States do not have an abortion provider," announces a Maryland NARAL fact sheet.
What are people who believe in abortion doing to expand access? Are they collecting donations to build and subsidize charitable rural abortion clinics, as they are entitled to under the law? Oh, no. Instead, NARAL and other abortion advocacy groups have launched nationwide campaigns to use the courts and legislatures to force hospitals (including Catholic hospitals) to provide abortion services.
Catholic hospitals are an especially juicy target, because they are often the only hospitals in rural areas. Catholic hospitals, charitable endeavors, spend over $2.8 billion more than they take in providing high-quality health care in poor and rural areas.
Remember, the overwhelming majority of abortions do not take place in hospitals, but in doctors' offices or clinics. The effect of these forced abortion laws is not to increase access, but to redefine abortion, an elective surgery undertaken primarily for social (not medical) reasons, as basic health care. In fact, the preferred Orwellian language is to relabel abortion as a "reproductive health service," despite the, shall we say, weak evidence that abortion assists in reproduction or improves health.
As always, the political playing field is unfair. Abortion advocates get a huge leg up from increasingly corrupt courts, which have interpreted a conscience clause intended to protect hospitals and medical personnel from forced involvement in abortion in the narrowest possible manner.
In Florida, a private nonsectarian hospital, Bayfront Medical Center, tried to join a nonprofit consortium that had a pro-life policy. The City of St. Petersburg filed a federal lawsuit, claiming Bayfront violated its lease (which required it to accept patients regardless of creed) and that refusing to perform abortions amounted to an unconstitutional establishment of religion. Faced with mounting legal fees, Bayfront settled by leaving the consortium.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.