Abortion in Dallas

Legalized abortion is still a hot topic in this country, yet even while the battle rages, abortion itself has become a fact of life – or death, as its opponents would be quick to say. In Washington, D.C., in 1975, for example, there were more abortions recorded than births – 9,746 births; 9,819 abortions.

In Dallas in 1976,.there were 13,529 births recorded by the Bureau of Vital Statistics. For the same year, approximately 13,554 abortions were performed. However, about 40 percent or 5,422, were performed on non-Dallas residents. Since exact statistics on abortions are not made public, and since most hospitals and clinics are reluctant to release this information, this figure may be conservative. It reflects only estimates given by four city abortion clinics and four of the six major hospitals (St. Paul’s does not perform abortions and Presbyterian refused to release any information). Therefore, the number of abortions performed on Dallas residents may be greater than the number of births.

About 75 percent of the women undergoing abortions are single and white. Sixty percent are between the ages of 18 and 24, although the age span ranges from 11 to 51. Abortion clinics are noting a marked increase in women under 17 seeking abortions, but, according to Barbara Oaks, director of Dallas Women’s Center, Inc. (not to be confused with the Women’s Center of Dallas which is not an abortion clinic), this is attributable to women becoming sexually active at a younger age.

At least 20 percent of the women who had an abortion last year had had at least one prior abortion. Contraceptive failure is the reason, Rhoda Brix of the Fairmount Center believes, although Barbara Oaks says it’s because more women are using abortion as a form of birth control. “Hardly a day goes by when we don’t have at least one woman in here who has had a previous abortion,” she says. “Last Saturday we had 10.”

Ninety-two percent of all first trimester abortions in Dallas are performed in abortion clinics where the procedure may involve only a three-hour stay and a $150 fee. Hospitals in Dallas charge as much as $400 and require a 24- to 48-hour stay. Most clinics require cash in advance or money order (no personal checks) although one clinic allows a payment plan and reduced fees for low-income clients. Another takes Master Charge.

For some clinics, abortion is a lucrative business. One in Dallas performs between 75 to 100 abortions a week on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. At $150 per abortion, that’s $45,000 to $60,000 a month. But most clinic directors and staff are quick to tell you they are there to provide a service, not to make a profit.

The increasing number of abortions has made adoption more difficult – available babies are scarce, and the waiting lists are long. Last year, Dallas’ five adoption agencies and the Dallas County Child Welfare Department reported that 304 children were placed with adoptive parents, a significant decrease from previous years. “In 1970, we placed 280 children in homes, this year we placed 64,” says Bill Baker, director of Special Services and Planning at the Buckner Baptist Benevolence Home. Currently, adoptive parents can expect to wait two to four years before receiving a baby. Hope Cottage and the Dallas County Child Welfare Department are no longer taking applications for babies because of the long wait, although they will accept applications for handicapped and older children.

Baker, along with other agency directors, attributes the baby shortage to the wide use of contraceptives and abortion as well as to the trend for women to keep their babies, a trend that has outstripped the services available for women who make such a choice. Society’s attitude may be less judgmental, but in Dallas, support for a woman who keeps her baby is almost nonexistent, according to Joe Guy of the county welfare department.

Guy, who has worked with unwed mothers for five and a half years, says that the only organization in the city that provides practical support for a woman in this situation is Birth Right of Dallas, Inc., a non-profit volunteer organization specializing in the prenatal and postnatal needs of pregnant women.

Although Birth Right attempts to provide comprehensive care for a pregnant woman, Director Eda Lancione admits that resources are limited. “We have a small number of families in the community who will take a pregnant woman into their home,” she says, “but these are becoming even more scarce because of licensing regulations by the county welfare department regarding the housing of minors. Last year we had over 80 requests for housing and only 28 homes to accommodate them.

“During the past six years we have through one way or another managed to help every woman who has come to us,” says Mrs. Lancione, who in several cases has even taken girls into her own home. “But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find help for these women because of government restrictions and because abortion is becoming so acceptable. There is very little community support in the areas of employment, food, and housing for those women who choose to give birth and rear their children. And until more support is given the number of abortions will continue to rise.”


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