Activists Seeking Full Access To Abortion

Ensuring full access to legal abortions will be the focus of abortion-rights activists during the Clinton presidency, a state abortion-rights leader said last night.

Kim Gilhuly, a representative of Mass Choice, spoke to a small audience in Boylston Hall last night about "Challenges to Abortion Rights in the Clinton Era."

Gilhuly cited the administration's overturning of the "gag rule" and its decision to allow the abortion-inducing drug RU-486 into the country as examples of the increasing legality of abortion.

"Clinton's election has changed the whole landscape of abortion," said Gilhuly. "Yet in the Clinton era, what access we have is where the battles are now, not in issues of legality."

She said that even though abortions are the most common medical operations in the United States, totalling about 1.6 million per year, there are only 2,500 abortion providers and the numbers are declining.

Gilhuly said that in 1985, 23 percent of American hospitals required resident training in the first trimester abortion procedure, compared to only 13 percent today. Of 162 Massachusetts hospitals, only 28 provide abortions, Gilhuly said.

The shrinking access to abortions has been caused by actions of anti-abortions activists, she said.

These actions include lobbying for minor restrictions, blocking abortion clinics and harassing doctors and medical students so "they are afraid to learn or perform the abortion procedure," according to Gilhuly.

She said that in order to combat the shrinking access, abortion-rights activists will soon have a state-wide "day of access" to persuade hospitals to provide abortions. However, she did not elaborate on measures that would be taken to encourage availability of abortion services.

Gilhuly mentioned the murder of a Florida doctor by an anti-abortion protestor last week as an example of intimidation tactics being attempted by the anti-abortion movement.

"Right now, there is a stigma against and even a fear of providing abortions in hospitals [much] due to the insidious attitudes of anti-choice doctors and violence against providers," Gilhuly said.

Nine people attended the event, which was sponsored by Harvard-Radcliffe Students for Choice