WASHINGTON ― Planned Parenthood announced Thursday that it will be forced to close four health centers in Iowa because of a new state law that prevents Medicaid patients from seeking health care at the family planning provider.
The four clinics in Sioux City, Burlington, Keokuk and the Quad Cities, which collectively provide health care to almost 15,000 patients a year in Iowa, will be shutting down in June because they cannot afford to operate without public family planning funds. Planned Parenthood said three of those four clinics are in counties with relatively high rates of chlamydia, and the Burlington and Keokuk clinics are in rural areas where women will now have to drive over an hour to reach the nearest family planning provider.
“I am concerned about the health and well-being of the people in Iowa who now can no longer turn to their trusted health care provider,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood. “What is happening in Iowa is what we could see across the country if Congress passes this dangerous law to defund Planned Parenthood. This is hardest on people who already face barriers to accessing health care — especially people of color, young people, people with low to moderate incomes, and people who live in rural areas.”
Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed a budget bill last week that rejects $3 million in federal Medicaid funding for family planning and instead establishes a state-run family planning program that excludes organizations such as Planned Parenthood that provide abortions. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had been serving about 30 percent of the 12,000 patients in Iowa who accessed family planning through Medicaid, so those patients will now have to look elsewhere for birth control, Pap smears and sexually transmitted infection screenings.
Texas passed a similar law in 2011 that had devastating consequences for low-income women in the state. Republicans slashed the state’s family planning budget in order to defund Planned Parenthood, forcing 31 clinics to close and reducing access to long-acting contraceptives in the state by about a third. As a result, there was a 27 percent increase in births among women who had previously relied on Planned Parenthood for family planning.
Republican lawmakers in Iowa said there are other health providers besides Planned Parenthood that can meet women’s needs. State Sen. Amy Sinclair (R) said Iowa would still provide health care “in a way that is balanced with the needs and the concerns and the conscientious objections of those taxpayers that we represent who frankly are offended to their very soul by the intentional and unnecessary termination of the life of another human being.”
But other health care providers in the state are nervous about having to absorb all of Planned Parenthood’s patients.
“They’re assuming we’re the alternative,” Ted Boesen, CEO of the Iowa Primary Care Association, a nonprofit network of clinics, cautiously told The Atlantic. “But we’re waiting to see what kind of a scale it is.”