While abortion has been part of almost all human cultures from earliest times, the abortion clinic as we know it now has been in existence for a relatively short time, since the 1970s. After the legalization of abortion in January 1973, women's self-help groups, physicians, and Planned Parenthood expanded services dramatically throughout the country.
Clinics today will vary in services. Some will offer a full range of reproductive services such as contraception, routine well-woman checks, and abortions. Others focus exclusively on abortion. Whatever their range of services, clinics focus on safety, comfort, and confidentiality. In any abortion clinic, you can expect to be treated by state licensed, board eligible and/or board certified obstetricians and gynecologists. Counseling - both emotional and reproductive - is available. Anesthesia is provided, sometimes with a choice between general and local. Minors are provided services according to the laws of the state in which the clinic is located.
Each abortion clinic has been the focus of controversy - and often violence - from the time of its establishment. There have been repeated court challenges to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case which recognized a woman's right to abortion. Presidential appointments to the Supreme Court are followed with great interest by those on both sides of the abortion issue.
Women seeking to enter an abortion clinic have faced demonstrations and harassment. Entrances have been blocked and clinics vandalized. The violence escalated in the early 90s to include fire bombings, physical attacks, and the murder of clinic staff. Physicians and clinic clients were shot and killed. In response to these attacks, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances was passed by the U.S. Senate. This law made it a federal crime to blockade a clinic. In addition, protestors who threaten violence or intimidate clinic workers or patients are now subject to fines or imprisonment.