When Sue*, 41, made the decision to get an abortion 28 weeks into a pregnancy that had been very much wanted and planned, her options were scarce. Tests showed the baby-to-be ― a boy ― had Down syndrome, as well as a severe congenital heart defect and tumors. Sue was 38 at the time and she and her husband felt they could not bring a child into the world knowing the overwhelming challenges he would face.
“I couldn’t think of leaving him alone in the world with Down syndrome and a huge heart defect ― knowing he may not even get a heart replacement ― and tumors,” she told HuffPost.
Although the ultrasound tech who first discovered the fetal abnormalities told her it was too late to get an abortion, a genetic counselor Sue met with in the following days said she would make some calls. If the couple could come up with money quickly ― somewhere in the ballpark of $10,000 ― she might be able to get them in to see one of the few remaining providers in the country who performs later abortions, Dr. LeRoy Carhart. They did, and Sue drove two hours from Virginia to Maryland where she stayed in a hotel while the four-day procedure was completed.
That was three years ago. Last week, news quietly emerged that the clinic where Carhart has been a provider since 2010 ― Germantown Reproductive Health Service in Maryland ― has permanently closed. The Washington Post was the first to report that the Germantown clinic is under contract to be purchased by the anti-abortion group the Maryland Coalition for Life, leaving women like Sue with even fewer options. The Post reports that the group raised funds to make an offer to buy out the current owners of the property who also ran a second clinic that did not offer later abortions.
“The Germantown clinic is one of only three in the country that provides abortions later in pregnancy,” Dr. Carolyn Sufrin, an OB-GYN and member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, the advocacy group, told HuffPost.
“The women who need these services often have lethal fetal abnormalities or other extenuating life circumstances and did not learn about the pregnancies until late,” she said. “This will mean that women who are in need of abortions later in pregnancy will have even fewer options, and will likely be unable to travel the distance to get to them.”
Most states in this country prohibit abortions in the later stages of a pregnancy, though what “later” means varies. Seventeen states currently prohibit most…