By William K. Alcorn
BOARDMAN — The Mahoning Women’s Center, the target of numerous anti-abortion demonstrations, vigils and physical confrontations over its 33-year history, has closed.
The abortion clinic shut down operations at the end of business Tuesday, said Tim Baker, son of owner Mary Ann Baker, who was unavailable to comment.
The center opened in 1976 on Oak Hill Avenue near the former South Side Hospital, Youngstown, and moved to 4025 Market St. in early 1983.
It is closing because of the retirement of the owner and the decline in business, Baker said.
The center performed its first abortions in June 1976, according to Vindicator records.
Protests became so numerous and aggressive that a new organization, Choice Youngstown, was formed in 1989 to train individuals to serve as escorts for center clients.
In 1990, a group of students from Franciscan University of Steubenville entered the center and reportedly pushed employees aside and smashed equipment.
With the closing of the Mahoning Women’s Center, the closest abortion clinics are believed to be in Akron, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
The building that housed the center, owned by Mary Ann Baker, has been sold, and the center has until Jan. 31 to vacate the space. The other tenants in the two-story building are believed to be staying, Tim Baker said.
Mary Ann, 73, also owns James Travel, an agency that has been inactive for several years. In her retirement, she plans to travel and spend time with her grandchildren, her son said.
Melinda Knight, a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion, marriage and family program of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, said the closing of the clinic is an indication that women are realizing that they don’t need abortions, that abortions can’t solve their problems.
Rather, women need support, and Catholic Charities is always ready to offer any kind of support, whether it be financial, housing or employment, and there are many sources of help in the community, she said.
“We are glad they have gone out of business. It is mind-boggling to think how many lives were ended there,” Knight said.
Baker said his mother, president of the Ohio Chapter of the National Organization for Women for many years, was instrumental in getting many women’s rights established over the years.
Baker said he was a regular kid but always knew his mother was a big figure.
“As I child, I remember participating in a march on Washington, D.C., for equal rights, a NOW initiative,” he said.
Baker said his mother and father, John, were both English teachers.
“She was a widow who parlayed her teaching ability into a passion for equal rights,” Tim Baker said. “She was a pioneer who helped change the world and way women are perceived. She battled her whole life for equal rights and choice, and I hope that’s the way she is remembered. I’m very proud of her.”