Planned Par­ent­hood will close 10 clin­ics in Mid­west, South­west

The Washington Post Sunday - - NEWS - BY SAND­HYA SOMASHEKHAR sand­hya.somashekhar@ wash­post.com

Planned Par­ent­hood af­fil­i­ates an­nounced the clo­sures of 10 health cen­ters across the Mid­west and South­west this week, cit­ing a va­ri­ety of rea­sons in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal at­tacks by an­tiabor­tion law­mak­ers.

Planned Par­ent­hood of the Heart­land said it planned to close four clin­ics across Iowa be­cause of the re­cent bud­get signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad (R), who pledged to “de­fund” the women’s health or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Planned Par­ent­hood of the Rocky Moun­tains an­nounced it would close six clin­ics in Wy­oming, Colorado and New Mex­ico as an ef­fi­ciency mea­sure largely un­re­lated to the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate. One con­tribut­ing fac­tor was the health-care law en­acted un­der former pres­i­dent Barack Obama, which caused many ex­ist­ing clients who pre­vi­ously paid for their care out-of-pocket to qual­ify for Medicaid, which of­fers a lower re­im­burse­ment rate, of­fi­cials said. An­other was a de­sire to con­sol­i­date ser­vices in a new fa­cil­ity the or­ga­ni­za­tion plans to build in New Mex­ico.

Con­cern about po­lit­i­cal at­tacks did play a role, said Whit­ney Phillips, a spokes­woman for the af­fil­i­ate. The goal is to en­sure “we can with­stand any­thing that comes our way,” Phillips said.

The decision re­moves Planned Par­ent­hood’s pres­ence en­tirely from Wy­oming, which be­comes the sec­ond state af­ter North Dakota to have no Planned Par­ent­hood cen­ters. The or­ga­ni­za­tion con­cluded that other clin­ics could han­dle the 500 pa­tients served by its health cen­ter in Casper, Phillips said. She added that the or­ga­ni­za­tion plans to con­tinue to have a po­lit­i­cal and ed­u­ca­tional role in the state.

The clo­sures come at a piv­otal time for Planned Par­ent­hood, a 100-year-old non­profit that pro­vides birth con­trol, test­ing for sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases, can­cer screen­ings and other ser­vices at hun­dreds of clin­ics around the coun­try. It is fac­ing at­tacks at the state and fed­eral level over its role as the na­tion’s largest abor­tion provider and a prom­i­nent pro­po­nent for abor­tion rights.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans are seek­ing to cut Planned Par­ent­hood out of Medicaid, the statefed­eral health in­sur­ance pro­gram for the poor and dis­abled, with the House ear­lier this month pass­ing a health-care bill that would do just that. Repub­li­can­led states also have sought to block tax­payer money from sup­port­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Planned Par­ent­hood and its sup­port­ers have tried to push back against the mea­sures, ar­gu­ing they could lead to gut­ting ser­vices for the mil­lions of peo­ple who rely on the or­ga­ni­za­tion for their health care.

By law, fed­eral funds can­not be used to pay di­rectly for abor­tions ex­cept in nar­row cir­cum­stances. But an­tiabor­tion ac­tivists say tax­payer money should not sup­port Planned Par­ent­hood’s non-abor­tion work.

In Iowa, an ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill Branstad signed last week ends a pro­gram that used mostly fed­eral dol­lars to pro­vide fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices to low-in­come women. Branstad has said it will be re­placed by a state-funded pro­gram that will di­rect funds to or­ga­ni­za­tions that do not pro­vide abor­tions. It fol­lows a sim­i­lar move by Texas four years ago.

Planned Par­ent­hood of­fi­cials say it will force the clo­sure of clin­ics in Sioux City, Burlington and Keokuk, which will shut­ter June 30, as well as one health cen­ter in Quad Cities, which will con­tinue to pro­vide abor­tions un­til the build­ing is sold. The clo­sures will af­fect 14,676 pa­tients, many of whom live in ar­eas with scant re­sources for poor women seek­ing ser­vices like birth con­trol, the or­ga­ni­za­tion says.

In three of the four Iowa coun­ties where clin­ics are shut­ter­ing, Planned Par­ent­hood served 80 per­cent or more of the women who re­ceived birth con­trol at a pub­licly funded health cen­ter, of­fi­cials said. In the case of Keokuk, women in that com­mu­nity will have to drive nearly an hour to find the clos­est provider of safe­tynet fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices, they said. “We will do ev­ery­thing we can to con­tinue to care for as many pa­tients as we can,” Suzanna de Baca, pres­i­dent of Planned Par­ent­hood of the Heart­land, said in a state­ment. “How­ever, the harsh re­al­ity is that, de­spite all our ef­forts, there will be women who fall through the cracks and lose ac­cess to health care be­cause of this dan­ger­ous leg­is­la­tion.”

An­tiabor­tion groups cel­e­brated the news that the Iowa clin­ics would shut­ter and sug­gested that other health cen­ters could ab­sorb the pa­tients.

“This is good news for fam­i­lies in the state of Iowa,” Mag­gie DeWitte, di­rec­tor of Iowans for Life, said in a state­ment. “There are many qual­ity com­mu­nity health cen­ters in Iowa that pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive health care to women and fam­i­lies across the state. And they do so with­out tak­ing the life of pre­cious hu­man be­ings.”

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