A New York Clinic Closes. What Does It Mean for Access?

Posted on 10.03.2012 by Amy

I almost missed the most recent loss.

An abortion clinic in Brooklyn, New York has reportedly shut down after patients and doctors were driven away by anti-choice protesters. It was a quick headline on the New York Daily News website, a quick tweet I happened to notice, and another clinic is gone.

So while we watch the creep of TRAP laws threatening clinics from Mississippi and Virginia to Utah; while we Republican legislators redefine rape and claim abortion doctors abort fetuses that don’t exist; we have lost another small, quiet battle in the culture wars.

The loss of any clinic is a big deal, even in New York City, where the National Abortion Federation lists more than half a dozen member clinics. The reason that it’s a big deal is that when it comes to abortions, as with any medical procedure sought by people with hectic lives in an unforgiving economic world, convenience.is.key.

Oddly, the clinic closing made me think about Mike Birbiglia, the comedian who chronicles his experience with a sleep disorder in the film “Sleepwalk With Me.” Initially, after crashing through his home breaking things at night, Birgilia recounts in his comedy routine how he considered seeking help.

“I Thought ‘maybe I should see a doctor,’” he recounts. “Then i thought "maybe I'll eat dinner."


Eventually, Birbiglia crashed through a second-story glass window in his sleep and nearly killed himself.

Now, back to abortion.

While answering phones as a staffer at an abortion clinic, I talked with a municipal employee who had a very hectic schedule. She was on the cusp of her abortion becoming a two-day procedure, and had a difficult time scheduling even an ultrasound procedure at a time when our clinic was open and she didn’t have to be at work. It was less than 30 minutes to our clinic for an appointment that might have taken 10 minutes, but she couldn’t swing it. If the procedure was going to take two days, she told me seriously, she’d just have a baby.

Convenience is paramount. And scheduling is the least of it. Right now in the United States, 87 percent of counties have no abortion provider. People seeking abortion in this country, where abortion.is.totally.legal may need to travel long distances, cope with waiting periods as long as 72 hours, return unnecessarily for multiple appointments for ultrasounds, and pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars because their insurance won’t cover abortion. Now, some patients in New York will need to travel just slightly further.

Sure, this is New York City, not South Dakota. But even here, every closure counts.