Planned Parenthood to close four Iowa clinics

Decision comes after state Republicans redirect family planning dollars

  • Photo

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will close one-third of its Iowa clinics at the end of June, affecting more than 14,600 people, the women’s health provider said Thursday.

The clinic closures come after the state’s Republican legislators worked to redirect Medicaid family planning dollars away from abortion providers starting July 1.

Planned Parenthood — which operates 12 clinics in Iowa — will close clinics in Sioux City, Burlington, Keokuk and the Quad Cities-Bettendorf.

“These health center closures are devastating for the patients and communities who rely on us, and for our staff, donors and supporters,” said Suzanna de Baca, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland president and chief executive officer. “But the more important number is 14,676, the number of patients these health centers have served in the past three years.

“Unfortunately this number does not include the thousands more who will lose access to providers because of the defunding of the waiver nor the untold number who will not have Planned Parenthood to turn to in the future.”

All services will stop immediately starting June 30 at the Sioux City, Burlington and Keokuk health centers, while abortion services will continue at the Quad Cities health center until the building is sold, the organization said.

The decision comes after Gov. Terry Branstad this past Friday approved the portion of the Health and Human Services budget that allocates $3.2 million in state funding for family planning services but excludes facilities that provide abortions from receiving the funds.

The budget discontinues a federal Medicaid waiver that, since its creation in 2006, has helped more than 80,000 Iowa women receive Pap smears, birth control and cancer screenings through the Iowa Family Planning Network, including more than 12,000 last year. The waiver helps extend these important reproductive health services to men and women who due to income often fall in the gap between private insurance and Medicaid eligibility.

“We are proud of the efforts of the legislature approving more than $3.2 million for women’s health care clinics that do not perform abortions,” said Ben Hammes, the governor’s spokesman. The anti-abortion “movement is making tremendous strides in changing the hearts and minds, to return to a culture that once again respects human life. There are 2,400 different doctors, nurses and clinics in every corner of the state that can provide family planning services.”

Planned Parenthood — which said loss of funding through the Family Planning Network amounted to about $2 million — administered services to more than 30,000 people last year, with nearly 50 percent of its patients at or below the federal poverty level.

Abortions comprise only three percent of its total services. No state or federal dollars are used to fund abortions.

Republican legislators have argued that the move will expand family planning services by freeing up funds and encouraging existing Medicaid providers to participate in the program. But Planned Parenthood and other supporters argue that those providers don’t offer the same specialized care that can accommodate its high volume of patients.

“Obviously, throughout the whole debate of this bill, we talked about what we saw as the potential impact, which is far less access for clients,” said Jodi Tomlonovic at the Family Planning Council. “I understand how they have to make those kinds of decisions. But our concern is just the completely negative impact on access to family planning services in Iowa.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based reproductive health research organization, Planned Parenthood provided 80 to 96 percent of family planning services for patients accessing care at a publicly funded provider in 2015 in Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City.

“It’s just not a good thing for the state,” Tomlonovic said. “And it’s not a good thing for Iowans who want and need family planning services. It’s going to have a real ramification in a number of ways — not just increased abortions, but increased STD rates. You only have to look to Texas to see what we’ll have here.”

Starting in 2011, Texas took steps to bar abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from participating in a program aimed at giving low-income women family planning services. It’s a move that, in the years following, research has shown hurt the state’s family planning safety net.

The funding changes forced dozens of Planned Parenthood clinics there to close in 2012, according to researchers at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, which studies the effects of family planning funding cuts and restrictions.

Those that have remained open have reduced their hours, patient loads and available services.

Research by the Guttmacher Institute shows that Texas’s family planning program in 2013 served less than one-quarter of the women it helped in 2011. And that care became more expensive when you take knowledgeable providers out of the network — the cost to the state to provide family planning care jumped from $206 per client to $240.

Democratic legislators were quick to voice their displeasure with Branstad and other Republican legislators, saying politicians should stay out of women’s health care.

“We warned Republicans over and over again last session that their reckless actions to put ideology ahead of common sense would have a devastating impact on the lives of thousands of Iowa women, and today those warnings have become reality,” said Rep. Lisa Heddens, D-Ames.

“I’m sure that Gov. Branstad, Lt. Governor (Kim) Reynolds and legislative Republicans are celebrating the closing of these clinics,” said Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, and one of the Senate’s more vocal critics of the Republican-backed plan. “Somehow, I doubt that Branstad, Reynolds and legislative Republicans will personally help the more than 14,000 Iowans affected by these closures find a better place to get their family planning services. We must change course and make health care more accessible to more Iowans again.”

Late Thursday, Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, issued a statement in which he noted that, “Due to the switch to a state-run program, funding and access to women’s health services will be more readily available to providers in rural areas rather than concentrated in Iowa’s largest cities. People will be able to receive these services in their local communities now instead of being forced to drive long distances.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8331; chelsea.keenan@thegazette.com

Like what you're reading?

We make it easy to stay connected:

to our email newsletters
Download our free apps

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.