WELLFLEET — Ever since the Women’s Health Center in Hyannis closed in 2008, abortion services have not been available anywhere on Cape Cod.
The nearest abortion clinics are more than 90 miles away in Boston and Attleboro, according to state Sen. Julian Cyr.
In a May 3 tweet, Cyr wrote that “on the Cape & the Islands, there is NO access to abortion — that MUST change.”
Cape Cod Healthcare (CCH) owns the Cape’s two hospitals and numerous clinics and medical facilities but does not offer abortion services at any of them. Patrick Kane, CCH’s senior vice president for communications, would not directly respond to a question about the policy but said “we are working with our legal team” on an answer.
CCH spokesperson Lisa Connors issued a written statement: “While Cape Cod Healthcare does not offer abortion services, our OB/GYN providers are available to counsel patients and provide multiple resource options within the state.”
Cyr said he had not pushed CCH officials on the abortion issue in the last three years or so, and that the last time he had pressed them for an explanation of their policy they had told him, “We can’t touch this.” He suggested that one factor in CCH’s position may be the fact that a woman had died at the Hyannis abortion clinic before it closed in 2008. “That may be contributing to their allergy,” said Cyr.
Transportation is one of the major barriers Outer Cape residents face in accessing health care, including abortions, according to Gwynne Guzzeau, executive director of the nonprofit Helping Our Women (HOW).
“The burden of arranging transportation from this geographically isolated area extends to all women, regardless of their financial needs,” Guzzeau said.
HOW provides transportation to health-care appointments — including abortions — in the Boston metropolitan area regardless of clients’ income. HOW’s other services, including funding for health-care fees up to $65 per month, require that participants’ income be 210 percent or less of federal poverty level.
At the Eastham Select Board meeting on June 27, chair Jamie Demetri said that she had had an abortion off Cape. While she said her experience with Cape Cod Healthcare personnel was positive, she noted that, for those “not as mobile as I am,” getting help would probably have been more difficult.
Demetri also expressed concern that there was no Planned Parenthood clinic on Cape Cod.
Even if a Planned Parenthood clinic doesn’t offer abortions, it provides other services, such as birth control and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, that may be difficult to get for free or anonymously.
“The nice thing about Planned Parenthood is it’s an automatic safe space,” Demetri said. “It’s a place that you can walk in and know you can get those services no matter what.
“The only reason I was able to access any sort of birth control when I was young was because I had a supportive family,” Demetri said. “I also acknowledge that there aren’t a lot of families that do that. And I think, for those kids, that’s when access becomes an issue.”
Cyr said on Tuesday that there has been “an active conversation underway with Planned Parenthood to open a clinic in Hyannis.”