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Memorial axes women's choice

No public input in abortion decision


Memorial Hospital's sudden elimination of no-questions-asked abortions has left reproductive rights advocates wondering why the public was never consulted.

"We really want to try to bring this out into the light because it was really done in an underhanded way," said Georgia Moen, a Colorado Springs pro-choice activist.

In a voice vote devoid of debate last week, the 17-member board that governs the city-owned hospital opted not to allow abortions unless a woman's doctor can provide documented medical reasons.

The board also decided to ban abortions in pregnancies entering the 20th week. Rape is not addressed in the policy and it is also unclear what would happen to pregnant women whose lives are at risk after the 20th week.

"You're asking me to speculate and I really won't," said hospital spokeswoman Rita Burns of these scenarios.

The board did not provide any formal explanation for the change in policy.

Hospital board Chairman Curtis C. Brown said the hospital wanted to clarify what it will and will not do because some hospital workers were confused. He added that anti-abortion comments made by Douglas Bruce, a Republican candidate for county commissioner, were a factor. In July, Bruce criticized his then-opponent City Councilwoman Margaret Radford for not aggressively fighting abortion procedures at Memorial.

The new policy gives pro-choice advocates reason to be alarmed, said Lenox Powell, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

"There's no two ways about it," she said. "This is a restriction on a private decision between a woman and her doctor and a restriction on a woman's right to choose."

In 2001, there were 33 abortions at the hospital, compared to 17 abortions last year.

Brown and other top-ranking members of the board received presentations from hospital doctors and an administrator before bringing the matter to a vote, but did not consult the public: "I think we had a pretty good idea there would be people on both sides of the issue."

In the presentation, the hospital's executive committee asked for a breakdown on the number of abortions that had been carried out at the hospital -- including the number of women who had elected abortions.

The decision leaves Moen and others preparing to picket.

"Abortion is a legal procedure," she said. "For a city hospital to act this way is outrageous."

-- Michael de Yoanna

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