On June 2, 2000, NARAL (the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Act League) releases a survey that shows that the vast majority of hospitals in Washington do not provide abortion services. The survey reinforces earlier reports that the overall number of abortion providers has been decreasing, particularly in rural areas.
The NARAL researchers found that only nine of the 88 accredited hospitals in Washington provide abortions. Of the nine, three restrict abortions to patients of staff doctors. Of the six hospitals available to women in the general public, five are in Seattle and the other is in Spokane.
Most abortions are performed in clinics, but hospitals serve as an important source of information and referral, especially for rural women. Using volunteers who posed as women seeking abortions, NARAL found that only 31 of the 88 hospitals provided adequate referrals to a clinic, hospital, state agency, or doctor. The others either referred the callers to anti-abortion agencies, told them abortion was illegal, offered anti-abortion advice, or gave incomplete information.
A 1998 study sponsored by the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington showed that only one of 31 family planning clinics serving rural areas in Washington provided abortion services. Asked why they did not provide abortions on site, clinic personnel said the prime reason was local community opposition, followed by the lack of a trained provider. Another group of researchers found that only about 20 percent of Washington's rural counties had even one abortion provider, compared to 82 percent of the 11 metropolitan counties.
NARAL attributed the dwindling number of abortion providers to concerns about anti-abortion violence, vandalism, and rhetoric.