There was celebration at Allen County Right to Life’s 15th annual banquet Monday night, but it was tempered by the warnings from politicians and speakers in attendance.
Yes, the number of abortions is on the decline. Still, many speakers repeated, there is more work to be done.
“I pledge to you I will be in this fight for life until no more babies die and no more mothers cry,” said Cathie Humbarger, executive director of Allen County Right to Life, to the nearly 1,000 in attendance.
During the banquet at Grand Wayne Center, Humbarger trumpeted numbers that show a 56 percent drop in the number of abortions performed in Allen County from 2006 through last year.
In 2006, there were 658 abortions performed in Allen County, according to Allen County Right to Life.
Five years later there were 290 performed in the county, according to both Humbarger’s organization and the Indiana Department of Health.
The numbers provided by Allen County Right to Life match the numbers provided by the Indiana Department of Health’s annual “Terminated Pregnancy” reports.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which is committed to the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights, the number of abortions peaked after the procedure was legalized in 1973 and has dropped steadily since the 1980s.
In 1978, there were nearly 20,000 abortions in the Hoosier state, compared with about 10,000 in 2008, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s website.
Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, said her organization does a lot to reduce the numbers of abortion, through preventative care such as contraception and education.
“I can assure you that if contraception becomes even more available, along with age-appropriate sexual health education, we’ll continue to see a drop in the number of abortions, something that would be welcomed by all,” Cockrum said in a written statement.
During Monday’s banquet, Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, told the audience that the state legislature’s passage of stricter abortion laws – including requiring ultrasounds before the procedure – have helped lead to a decrease.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd told the crowd to be proud of their work but also telling them to continue fighting until there are no more abortions.
In her remarks to the audience, Humbarger pointed to several factors she believed helped lead to the local decrease in abortions.
These included the opening of the Women’s Care Center on Inwood Drive next to a local abortion clinic; the passing of a local ordinance requiring non-local doctors who perform abortions to provide the health department with emergency contact information; the closure of one abortion facility; and several events held by Allen County Right to Life.
Humbarger also spoke about a complaint she filed with the U.S. Department of Justice against the abortion clinic in July, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Department of Justice declined to take action against the Fort Wayne Women’s Health facility after an ADA complaint.
She alleged the clinic, at 2210 Inwood Drive, is not wheelchair-accessible. Humbarger said she has seen women in apparent physical discomfort struggling to get to their cars.
The Allen County Right to Life office is near Fort Wayne Women’s Health.
Humbarger asked the Justice Department to investigate the “apparent violation” of the ADA and require the clinic to come into compliance.
The head of Allen County Right to Life expressed disappointment in the Department of Justice’s decision.
“Having an abortion is a serious medical procedure with potentially severe side effects. Even though fewer women in Allen County are getting abortions, they still deserve a facility that meets federal law and can offer them handicap parking and wheelchair access,” Humbarger said in a written statement.
“I’m disappointed in the Department of Justice,” Humbarger’s statement continued. “They failed to enforce a law that would ease the physical pain women are in immediately after an abortion. Other businesses have to adhere to ADA laws, why is an abortion facility getting a free pass?”
At Monday’s banquet, she had one message for the audience regarding the complaint and the department of justice’s decision:
“Make no mistake,” she said. “We’re not done with this.”