By JOANNE FOX
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, based in Des Moines, has announced plans to close four of its 12 clinics in Iowa – one in the Diocese of Sioux City and three in the Diocese of Davenport.
The clinics in Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City will close effective June 30. The fourth clinic, in Bettendorf, will close later. Planned Parenthood will continue to operate eight clinics in Iowa – in Ames, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Iowa City and in the Des Moines metro area.
The Iowa Legislature had changed the current Medicaid family planning waiver program to prevent reimbursement of abortion providers, which includes Planned Parenthood. The new rule takes effect July 1.
The state will provide funds to continue a $3.3 million family planning program at no cost to Iowans making less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level. No funding will be provided for health services received at facilities where abortion services are offered.
“We oppose sending public money to abortion providers. Catholics have always made the needs of the vulnerable a priority through services such as Catholic Charities, hospitals and advocacy for public policy that protects the marginalized,” said Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops.
The Republican-led legislature led the defunding efforts. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed the budget on May 12.
“Despite every effort to fight back against ‘defunding’ by these extreme Iowa lawmakers who are driven by misguided beliefs and not facts about patient needs, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is now forced to close four health centers in Iowa,” Planned Parenthood of the Heartland President and CEO Suzanna de Baca told reporters. “Defunding Planned Parenthood will set a health care crisis in motion in Iowa. We will be watching and holding politicians accountable.”
Jenifer Bowen of Iowa Right to Life, a spokeswoman for a coalition of groups that lobbied for the new legislation, disputed the assertion that Planned Parenthood’s defunding would “set a health care crisis in motion.”
“Planned Parenthood is not a ‘health care’ provider,” she said. “With the closure of four more dangerous webcam abortion locations, we are pleased to see Iowa rapidly returning to a state where women and their unborn children are safe from the shrinking abortion giant.”
Bowen stated Planned Parenthood’s announcement is one which will “empower” women.
“The reallocation of our tax dollars, away from the abortion industry, and into the hands of true health care facilities will only empower more Iowa women,” she said. “This brings the total to 20 Planned Parenthoods closing their doors in Iowa since 2010.”
In the Diocese of Sioux City, Planned Parenthood clinics closed in Storm Lake in 2012 and in Spencer and Fort Dodge in 2013.
Sherrill Glassmaker, director of Mary’s Choice, a pregnancy resource center adjacent to Planned Parenthood’s Sioux City office, was grateful “prayers have been answered” in the closing of the facilities.
“Mary’s Choice will continue to help women and families – as we always have – and provide them with resources as needed on an individual basis,” she said.
Glassmaker recalled when Bishop Walker Nickless presided at the first Mass at the opening and blessed the Mary Mother of the Eucharist Chapel in 2015.
“We had faith that with Christ’s presence and guidance, we would all get to one day see the closing of the abortuary next door and celebrate that no longer would lives be lost,” she said.
Mary’s Choice will continue to have Mass celebrated at its chapel with a peaceful protest in front of the Sioux City Planned Parenthood facility, as webcam abortions will continue until June 30.
Donna DeJoode, director of religious education for St. Mary Parish in Pella and coordinator of an annual trip to Washington for the March for Life, called the closures “very exciting news.”
“It will not stop us from going to the march until Roe v. Wade is completely reversed and abortion overall is ended, but it is a great beginning to a hopeful end,” she told The Catholic Messenger, Davenport’s diocesan newspaper.
Vicki Tyler, executive director of the Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf, said the pro-life center expects to see an increase in clients when Planned Parenthood stops offering most of its services June 30 and after it finally closes. The two facilities are located across the street from each other in Bettendorf.
Barb Arland-Fye, Anne Marie Amacher and Lindsay Steele of The Catholic Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Davenport, contributed to this report.