Abortion clinic hopes patients won't take right for granted THE ABORTION DECISION

June 30, 1992|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS — An article in The Sun and The Evening Sun yesterday misstated the time during a pregnancy when an abortion is permitted at the Baltimore clinic of Planned Parenthood, which furnished the incorrect information. Women who are up to 14 weeks pregnant are eligible. The article also incorrectly stated that in 1984 a Planned Parenthood clinic in Annapolis was the target of a bomb scare, instead of a bombing.

The Sun regrets the error.

ANNAPOLIS -- She was 14 weeks pregnant and unmarried, a beauty-salon worker who said she scrapes by on a minimum wage and a few tips. With a rambunctious 15-month-old daughter at home, she did not want anybody to tell her she needed another baby.

Yesterday, the 20-year-old woman was relieved that the nation's highest court had not taken away her right to an abortion.

Just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited ruling in Washington, the woman sat in a tiny counseling office at the Planned Parenthood office here to schedule the procedure that would end her pregnancy.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"I would have been upset if they outlawed it," said the woman, who asked that her name not be used.

"I'm happy of course. But I don't think I'll be pregnant again," she said. In the future, she vowed, she won't forget to take her birth control pills. She said she has never had an abortion before.

Planned Parenthood officials say that this clinic and another in Baltimore perform about 2,000 abortions each year in Maryland, about 6 percent of total patient visits at the organization's seven clinics in the state. The Annapolis clinic performs abortions for women who are up to 12 weeks pregnant, while the Baltimore site accepts those who are up to 16 weeks pregnant. After that, patients are referred to hospitals and other sites.

In Annapolis, between 15 and 25 patients -- mostly single, white women between the ages of 20 and 24 who work or attend college -- come for abortions every Thursday, said clinic director Patty Bloh. It is the only day of the week that the clinic performs abortions.

While abortions comprise only a third of the medical services available at the Planned Parenthood office here, they have made the three-story office building off West Street, where the center is housed, a target for protesters.

In 1984, the Annapolis Planned Parenthood offices, then located in Bay Ridge, were shut down after a bomb scare.

According to clinic counselors, most women seeking abortions recently paid little attention to the high court's impending action. Most are so young that they've never known abortion to be illegal. The landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, which guaranteed the right to abortion, was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973. "When women come in, they take a lot for granted," Ms. Bloh said. "Most are saying, 'I need it today. My crisis is today.' "

When Ms. Bloh met with the beauty-salon worker, the counselor handed over a yellow pamphlet outlining options. "You can keep the baby, put it up for adoption or have an abortion," she told her.

But the woman was resolute as she quickly signed a form indicating she wanted the abortion. She tossed the pamphlet in the trash, though Ms. Bloh retrieved it and asked that the young mother take it with her.

Then the director, pointing to a color chart of the reproductive system, explained the five-minute procedure of suctioning the fetal tissue from the uterus and possible complications.

She went over the woman's medical history and discussed financial arrangements -- $195 in cash or money order to cover what Medical Assistance would not pay. The abortion was scheduled for Thursday.

"There will likely be protesters here on Thursday morning," Ms. Bloh explained. "You can come early and we do have escorts to bring you in the building."

Yesterday, a 19-year-old woman, who returned to the Annapolis clinic for a routine checkup following her first abortion two weeks ago, said she had tried to block out the extensive media coverage of the impending court decision.

"I just turned off the radio or TV whenever there was anything about abortion on there," said the woman, who did not give her name.

"If I couldn't have had the abortion, I would have put the baby up for adoption," said the college student, who was dressed in T-shirt and jeans. She got pregnant, she said, after having sex with her boyfriend for five years and using no contraception.

"I don't think abortion should be used for birth control," she said. "I don't think it should be used over and over again. If I got pregnant again, I would have the baby."

Clinic workers say the court's decision yesterday buys time until Marylanders vote on Nov. 3. The statute going to referendum would preserve Maryland's current policies on abortion even if the Supreme Court ultimately overturns Roe vs. Wade -- a move seen as increasingly likely when the court considers abortion challenges from other states during its next term.

"It's good news for us because we can continue to do business and people can continue to have a choice," Ms. Bloh said.

"But the anti-choice people are out there very strong so we'll have to work hard. We want each state to make its own decision."

In the clinic's waiting room, a bright yellow, diamond-shaped sign, hanging over a portable playpen, reads: "CAUTION You could lose your freedom to choose on Nov. 3."

Clinic workers say they assisted more than 300 people to register to vote and have collected some $200 in donations for the abortion-rights effort.

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