It’s a step forward in the necessary integration of abortion into other forms of OB-GYN care: Feministing reports that the nation’s first-ever birthing center/abortion clinic has opened in Buffalo, N.Y. The clinic, run by Dr. Katharine Morrison, offers a traditional slate of gynecological services, including abortion up to 22 weeks, under the name Buffalo WomenServices. But they also have a freestanding birthing center called the Birthing Center of Buffalo, where women who want a nonhospital birthing experience can go while having the benefit of being attended by a certified nurse midwife and an OB-GYN who has admitting privileges at the local hospital in case of complications.
The place was set up with an explicitly feminist point of view, and it sounds like they go beyond the call of duty in making sure their patients are emotionally, as well as physically, cared for. “In our clinic, we have RNs, LPNs, social workers, counselors, and trained medical personnel, in addition to our physicians, to assist our patients,” the general information page reads. But having a single clinic provide both birthing and abortion services doesn’t need to be rooted in feminist ideology. Having a single place to go for all your pregnancy needs instead of sorting patients out depending on their preconceptions about outcome is just plain common sense. Being able to go to the same doctor to give birth and have an abortion at different times in your life is likely comforting for patients. And if you’re not sure what you want to do about a pregnancy when you first discover it, it’s going to feel easier to go to a clinic for counseling that understands all the options and can provide them in-house as well.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t lots of OB-GYNs out there who do both abortions and deliveries, of course. But abortion is so siloed off in freestanding clinics that many doctors do most of their OB-GYN care in one office and then travel to a separate one to perform abortions. While this system can help women who are looking for abortion find it more easily, it also had the negative effect of stigmatizing abortion patients by walling them off from all the other patients seeking OB-GYN care. As Emily Bazelon reported in the New York Times in 2010, there’s been a move in the medical profession to rectify this problem by reintegrating abortion into mainstream medical care. “The bold idea at the heart of this effort is to integrate abortion so that it’s a seamless part of health care for women — embraced rather than shunned,” she writes.
This Buffalo clinic, then, is a major step in the right direction. It also helps counteract anti-choice propaganda that paints abortion providers as sleazy death-lovers who try to talk women into abortions to make money. The same doctor who is performing abortions is also delivering babies. There’s no contradiction there.