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Abortions at Stroger up 78% since 2003
COUNTY | 'Doing a better job of reaching out to the community'

Monday, December 03, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON

For the second straight year, Cook County taxpayers are set to pay for a record number of abortions at county health facilities.
The dramatic increase at Stroger Hospital runs counter to state and national trends. Since 2003, abortions at Stroger Hospital have increased 78 percent -- to about 4,000 this year from 2,243.
The county has more than doubled the number of abortions performed each week since the service was reinstated in 1992 -- to a current average of 77 a week from a self-imposed limit of 30 a week.
County officials and abortion advocates say the need has always been there, but the county wasn't addressing it.
After streamlining operations and making other changes, county clinics are turning away fewer women than before.
"We've done a lot of restructuring in the last two or three years," said Dr. Ashlesha Patel, head of the county's family planning division. "We're also doing a better job of reaching out to the community."
'It's out-and-out wrong'
Some say the county shouldn't be spending more than $1 million a year on the service.
"We should put that money toward educating people on alternatives," said Commissioner Liz Gorman, a Republican who opposes abortion except in cases of rape or incest. "It's out-and-out wrong that we're doing that many. It's outrageous."
Board President Todd Stroger, who campaigned on a promise to support abortion rights, said he'll "continue to support providing quality health care services" to all residents if there's a need.
"I believe in a woman's constitutional right to reproductive health care," he said. "It should not be limited by anything, including politics, geography or financial status."
Abortions were available at county facilities from 1973 until 1980, when Board President George Dunne instituted a ban.
In 1992, Board President Richard Phelan lifted that ban.
Records show a relatively constant number of abortions were performed until the recent uptick.
Women are asked for a $50 co-payment, but they are not denied care if they can't afford it, Patel said.


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