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NRL News
Page 12
April/May 2010
Volume 37
Issue 4-5

PPFA Plans Expansions Even in Down Economy

By Randall K. O'Bannon, Ph.D.

Just a few months ago, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Michigan were complaining about budget cuts and closing clinics. Now, though, they’re talking about opening a new abortion clinic in the Detroit area. The reason for the turnaround? A columnist for the Detroit News who has contacts at Planned Parenthood calls it “[a]n early sign of health care reform’s impact . . . .”

In 2007, Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Muskegon closed, “one of five sites put out of business because of a $700,000 cut in state funds” the Mukegon Chronicle said, attributing the information to Planned Parenthood’s CEO for its West and North Michigan affiliate (PPWNM), Katherine Humphrey (10/2/07). Planned Parenthood clinics in White Cloud and Hart had closed the day before and clinics in Grand Rapids and Mount Pleasant were slated to close by the end of the year. Humphrey called it “devastating.”

Flash forward to February 2010 and the story is much different. Now, the Muskegon Chronicle headline trumpets “Planned Parenthood center nears March 8 opening” (2/27/10). The paper says that the county health department is required by law to make family planning services available. Another non-Planned Parenthood clinic which had been providing the services closed in November 2009, so Planned Parenthood stepped back in to fill the void.

The newspaper notes that the “center will become the dedicated Title X provider for Muskegon County, using grant money administered by the state to provide access to family planning services, especially for lower-income women.”

The pattern should be obvious. Cut the funding, clinics close. Make funding available and clinics will be opened to spend it.

Planned Parenthood is quite open about its reliance on government funding. Each year, the national office and affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) receive about a third of more of its revenues from “government grants and contracts.” Those grants and contracts totaled $349.6 million in its fiscal year ending June 30, 2008 (PPFA Annual Report, 2007–08). Some of this money comes from the federal programs like Title X, while other money comes from state or local governments.

As recently as fall of 2009, PPWNM CEO Humphrey was writing a letter to the editor of the Muskegon Chronicle urging citizens to act, concerned that “proposed cuts” in the state’s community health budget “will force providers to close health centers, lay off staff and increase fees” (9/29/09).

Now, with passage of President Obama’s “health care reform” though, Planned Parenhood is gearing up for expansion in Michigan. Laura Berman, columnist for the Detroit News, says that Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan (PPMSM) is planning to open a new clinic in Oakland County, one of the Detroit area’s suburban communities, in the next 18 months. Berman says that Lori Lamerand, executive director of PPMSM, is preparing for an “onslaught” of women “poised to gain new access to reproductive health care” (Detroit News, 4/27/10).

Berman never offers any details on exactly how passage of ObamaCare translates into dollars for the new clinic. Perhaps all she means is that the millions of newly insured women will offer Planned Parenthood a bigger customer base. Or maybe she expects more funding for family planning or even abortion from the Obama administration in the coming years.

One portion of the new health care law provides $9.5 billion in funding for grants to community health centers. Though your standard Planned Parenthood clinic wouldn’t qualify because of its limited services, the bigger megaclinics that Planned Parenthood is opening all across the country are large enough to offer a range of services as well as abortion. Interestingly enough, an additional $1.5 billion in the new law is provided for construction and renovation of community health centers.

It is telling that early on in the health care debate, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards was at the White House saying, “We applaud the president for the action he took earlier this week to use some of the economic stimulus money to fund community health centers. That’s an important first step. . . . As we move forward, we must build a strong infrastructure that includes support for women’s primary care providers including family planning health centers. For millions of women, Planned Parenthood clinics are their entry point for care. We provide access to a health care system that they often feel is out of reach, particularly as they search for affordable, trusted care. Our nation needs a network of family planning providers that care for low-income clients.” (Richards in Huffington Post, 3/6/09)

No word yet on whether the new Oakland County facility will be one of the megaclinics that Planned Parenthood is building in several other parts of the country. But Planned Parenthood has established a pattern in the past several years of pruning unprofitable clinics, merging affiliates and cutting staff, and then building huge modern clinics that can appeal wealthier suburbanites and can perform a high volume of abortions.

Some of the pieces seem to be in place in Michigan. Several Planned Parenthood clinics in Michigan have closed, and there have been two mergers of Planned Parenthood Michigan affiliates in the last two years. (It appears from a 3/15/10 press release that PPMSM, once known as the PP Mid Michigan Alliance, first absorbed PP Southeastern Michigan in 2008 and then PP East Central Michigan in October 2009, so that the service area now covers 70% of Michigan’s population.)

Though Detroit News’ Berman talks about a “heightened demand for contraception and abortion” in a time of recession, it is interesting to note that Detroit has been experiencing a severe population drain over the past several decades, dropping from about 1.9 million in 1950 to less than half that today (Investor’s Business Daily, 3/11/10). Some of that flight is to more affluent suburbs like Oakland County, but statewide, Michigan saw fewer babies born in 2008 than in any year since 1990 (Detroit Free Press, 4/7/10).

Wayne County, where Detroit is located, has long led the state in abortions, usually responsible for 8,000 to 10,000 abortions a year, about a third of those performed in the state. Oakland County typically comes in second, with between 2,000 and 3,000 abortions a year.

In the Bush era,” Berman writes, “Planned Parenthood fought for survival.” Now, thanks to the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress’s ramming through of health care reform, Planned Parenthood feels comfortable expanding its operations.