Shortage of Abortion Docs Forces Planned Parenthood to Seek Nurses to Do Abortions

National   |   Randy O'Bannon, Ph.D.   |   Jun 4, 2015   |   12:37PM   |   Washington, DC

So, one of Planned Parenthood’s Northwest affiliates is looking for a nurse practitioner or certified nurse midwife to provider “reproductive health services,” including chemical or “medication” abortions, to a ‘broad-based population” in Vancouver, Washington, and Salem, Bend, and Milwaukie, Oregon.

Rarely do stories come along that capture so many of the hot trends, but the fear is that this may only be the first.

Doctors quitting the abortion business leading to a national shortage of abortionists. Check.

The industry looks to non-physicians to fill in the shortage. Check.

Using chemical abortions to bring abortion to more lightly staffed, under-equipped offices. Check.

Planned Parenthood figuring out a way to expand its abortion empire and increase revenues in the middle of a downward national abortion trend. Check.

The Planned Parenthood Columbia Williamette affiliate (PPCW) covers the Portland area and clinics downstate in Salem and Bend, Oregon. It also includes a clinic just across the river from Portland in Vancouver, Washington.

Just five years ago, that affiliate had nine clinics and had just, amidst great fanfare, opened a giant new mega-center in downtown Portland. Last year, they announced the closing of three of those clinics, though only one of those offered abortions. They did not, notably, close the three clinics in the state that perform both chemical and second trimester surgical abortions.



Stacy Cross, the organization’s president and CEO, said this in a June 3, 2014, statement on the affiliate’s website announcing the closures: “The decision to close health centers and make staff changes was difficult but necessary in order to maintain a fiscally solvent operation that continues to keep our doors open to patients in our region for the long-term.”

Cross said at the time that PPCW was “making some difficult but necessary organizational and staff changes to realign our health centers and staff to meet our patients’ needs in a changing health care landscape, which is necessary for us to position PPCW for long-term sustainability in communities that we serve.”

Now, with the announcement of a new clinic going into the Portland suburb of Milwaukie and the search for new medical staff, one gets a better idea of just what PPCW’s long term plans might be.

Abortions and abortion rates have dropped in Oregon to their lowest levels since Roe v. Wade, similar to what has been seen in the U.S. as a whole. One corollary, if not an outright contributor to that decline, has been the drop in the number of abortionists in the U.S. There were, for example, 2,918 in 1982, but only 1,720 as of 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The abortion industry, unable to force medical schools to mandate abortion training, turned to other measures, like getting states to allow non-surgeons, even non-physicians like physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives to perform surgical or chemical abortions.

Chemical abortion itself was one way to expand abortion to new areas. Thanks to lobbying by the abortion industry, the government did not require clinics to have surgical equipment or abortionists to have surgical training (to handle complications or incomplete abortions) in order to offer the new abortion pills.

Not surprisingly, that has allowed large industry groups like Planned Parenthood to add chemical abortions to a lot of their smaller, previously non-abortion performing clinics.

That is, if they can find the personnel to administer them.

Planned Parenthood’s giant Iowa affiliate, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, has pioneered the campaign to eliminate the need for on-site highly trained medical personnel entirely. They are the masters of the “web-cam” system whereby mothers, possibly a hundred miles away or more, communicate via web-cam with the abortionist back at a central office who reviews their records and asks a few questions.

He clicks a computer mouse which releases a drawer which contains the two abortifacient drugs back at the patient’s location. She takes the first drug mifepristone there while in communication and then takes the second drug, a prostaglandin, later at home. A certified medical assistant with a few community college classes may take her blood pressure, but if she has problems, but if the woman has problems, she can only call a hotline or try to make it to her local E.R.

PPCW hasn’t gone that far, but is apparently looking for nurses to fill the abortionist gap in Oregon.

Apparently they believe that if they can get a nurse practitioner or certified mid-wife willing to “Perform medication abortions” and “Assist in abortion and sterilization services,” they can not only keep their remaining clinics open but open a new center in Milwaukie.

The person PPCW is looking to hire is expected to have the education needed for relevant state licenses (Oregon allows non-physicians like nurse practitioners and nurse midwives to perform abortion) and should be “Eligible and able to pursue prescriptive authority with current licensure.”


PPCW’s listing on “Health Hires” of the Lund Report website appears to have been pulled, the position possibly filled, but was up as recently as two weeks ago (5/21/15). How many saw and applied for the position is not known, though everything points to PPCW’s continuing to move forward with the new Milwaukie center.

It is not good news, but it does illustrate how different developments in the abortion industry are all tied together. With abortions dropping and doctors getting out of the abortion business, the industry is turning to chemical abortions and less trained medical personnel to keep their clinics open and stay profitable.

The big abortion drops illustrate how far we’ve come, the impact we’ve had, but events like this serves as a warning not to take things for granted, as the industry will adapt in order to try and stay in business. Note: Randall O’Bannon, Ph.D., is the director of education and research for the National Right to Life Committee. This column originally appeared at NRL News Today.