By Barb Arland-Fye, Anne Marie Amacher and Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has announced plans to close four of its 12 clinics in Iowa – three in the Diocese of Davenport and one in the Diocese of Sioux City. The closures in Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City take effect June 30. The Bettendorf clinic will close later, according to news sources. Last month, the Iowa Legislature 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 Iowa Catholic Conference Executive Director Tom Chapman.
Sarah McCreary, founder of the University of Iowa Students for Life, said she was ecstatic when she heard news about the clinics’ closure. “The thing about Planned Parenthood is that they count a lot of other services that they do, but their annual reports show very differently. They do fewer than 2 percent of the nation’s cancer screenings, and the ones they do offer are very limited. They do one-third of the nation’s abortions. They are definitely a company that focuses on abortions. I’m thrilled that my tax dollars are going to be reallocated to organizations that truly provide care to women and families. It’s a wonderful thing because I don’t want my tax dollars going to organizations that provide abortions.”
Since the Iowa City clinic is not affected, she doesn’t think the ruling will have an immediate effect on women in Iowa City and the University of Iowa. In the long term, it will help women to receive quality care without being “coerced into having an abortion” at these Planned Parenthood clinics, she said.
“The closure of these facilities represents the wish of Iowans to have their tax dollars support centers that provide more comprehensive healthcare services that uphold the dignity of life in the womb and that protect the well-being of women and their families,” said Sheryl Schwager. She is executive director of Johnson County Right to Life. “Planned Parenthood & Emma Goldman Center in Iowa City will be adversely affected by this new law … to what extent we do not yet know. Johnson County Right to Life will continue our mission to educate our community about the value of all life and expose the deception and harm perpetrated by the abortion industry.”
“This is very exciting news,” said Donna DeJoode, director of religious education for St. Mary Parish in Pella and coordinator of an annual trip to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life. “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.”
“We’re ready for you.” That’s the response that Vicki Tyler, executive director of the Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf, gives to any woman who may be pregnant but doesn’t know what to do or needs referral services.
Tyler 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. Other news outlets report that the clinic will remain open for an unspecified time. Planned Parenthood did not return an email and phone call from The Catholic Messenger.
“So many have been praying for the closure of Planned Parenthood,” even before it was built, Tyler said. The Bettendorf clinic opened in 2000 after several years of delays because of protests. “We give God all the honor, glory and praise,” Tyler said of the closing.
Planned Parenthood offered surgical abortions in Bettendorf until approximately early 2014. Since then, it has offered “medication abortions,” in which two different pills are used to end a pregnancy: mifepristone at the clinic and misoprostol, taken up to 48 hours later, usually at home.
Tyler dreams that a new owner would convert the clinic into a daycare and learning center where moms could take classes to earn a General Education Diploma (GED), participate in basic computer courses and get job-search assistance.
Supporters of abortion rights expressed dismay at the closure of the clinics. State Rep. Phyllis Thede, D-Bettendorf, said: “Today’s terrible news means nearly 4,000 women in the Quad Cities will lose access to critical health care services like cancer screenings and birth control. I fought against this plan in the Legislature because Republican politicians in Des Moines don’t know what’s best for women and families in the Quad Cities. I’m going to keep working to make sure health care is affordable and accessible to every woman and family in our community.”
“The pro-life supporters will remain vigilant and not let down awareness of what Planned Parenthood plans to do next,” pro-life activist Charlene Merritt of Bettendorf, said. “There is a complete understanding that they are part of a determined group who firmly believe that they are providing essential services — so determined that truth about what abortion does to women is denied and hidden under layers of rhetoric which masks all semblance of reality. Those actively involved in the ministries will continue with their work.”