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, 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, who said the goal is to ensure "we can withstand anything that comes our way."
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 both 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 state-federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled, with the House earlier this month passing a health-care bill that would do just that. Republican-led 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 (R) 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 safety-net 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."