SANTA ANA — Planned Parenthood, which three weeks ago announced plans to begin offering abortions in Orange County, cannot find a local physician to perform them and now has extended its search beyond the county's borders, officials said.
Planned Parenthood plans to offer abortions, probably in its Santa Ana facility, as soon as the group's leaders are able to hire doctors to perform them.
However, the organization has had difficulty finding local doctors to both perform abortions and provide prenatal care to expectant mothers, Margie Fites Seigle, executive director of Planned Parenthood in Orange County, said in an interview Wednesday.
She emphasized that the new abortion service is not the sole reason for the difficult search.
"We're having a hard time finding physicians to do both services," Seigle said.
Part of the problem in recruiting doctors is that physicians are reluctant to be regarded as representatives of a high-profile advocacy organization, she said.
"Doctors basically become advocates when they work at Planned Parenthood. Not all physicians choose to be advocates," Seigle said.
Planned Parenthood's unsuccessful search does not mean that abortion services are becoming less available in Orange County, Seigle said.
"We have not heard of people having a problem in getting an abortion in Orange County. There are a number of clinics that provide them and a number of doctors who perform them in the county," Seigle said.
But a spokeswoman for an anti-abortion organization took heart in Planned Parenthood's difficult search.
"I hope their lack of success (in recruiting physicians) means that Orange County doctors respect life too much to be paid to kill unborn life," said Beth Cielnicky, president of Crusade for Life, an anti-abortion organization based in Anaheim.
A spokeswoman from Operation Rescue in Southern California, an anti-abortion activist group, said the organization has not heard of doctors in Orange County dropping abortion services because of protests.
Nonetheless, doctors may be less keen to perform abortions in light of highly visible protests by anti-abortion groups that have picketed clinics providing such a service, said Dr. Roger Schlesinger, president of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Society of Orange County. Schlesinger does not perform abortions in his own practice.
Physicians are concerned that if they perform abortions in clinics, they can potentially lose patients in their private practice, Schlesinger said. He added that doctors worry about how they will be viewed by patients or doctors with opposing views on abortion.
"Performing abortions is alienating. It's not a procedure that is tasteful. You can't make a career out of doing abortions," Schlesinger said.
According to the most recent statistics gathered by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which surveys clinics and hospitals in the United States that perform abortions, more than 30,000 abortions were performed in Orange County in 1985.