June 30, 2015 — The retirement of a longtime doctor at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has made it more difficult to access and schedule abortions in Nebraska, World-Herald Bureau/Norfolk Daily News reports.
Shortages in Abortion Care Providers
According to the Bureau/Daily News, PPH has been seeking a physician and an associate medical director for its clinics in the state for several years. One physician, C.J. LaBenz, temporarily came out of retirement to help fill the gap in care, but he decided to retire again in March of this year.
Following his departure, PPH temporarily had to stop offering abortion care at its Lincoln clinic and curb abortion services at another clinic in Omaha. Women seeking medication abortion were referred to the organization's Council Bluffs clinic, and those seeking surgical abortions were referred to PPH's Des Moines clinic. According to Angie Remington, a spokesperson for PPH, grant money was used to help low-income patients cover transportation-related costs.
Currently, the Lincoln and Omaha clinics offer abortion services five days per month, down from eight. However, neither clinic has a physician on staff who can regularly offer abortion care. The part-time abortion care is provided by a physician, Nicola Moore, who flies into the state for a few days per month, and Jill Meadows, medical director of PPH.
Remington said appointments are filling up more quickly because of the shortage. "It has been challenging to meet the need for abortion services at our Nebraska health centers," she said, adding, "We are booking out two weeks in advance."
Challenges Finding Physicians
Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, noted that while there is not a nationwide shortage of abortion providers, they tend to be distributed unevenly throughout the U.S. According to Saporta, there are fewer providers in rural areas and in states that have restrictive abortion laws and in areas where providers face antiabortion-rights harassment, such as Nebraska.
"Nebraska has been fairly hostile to abortion providers and to abortion care in many ways," she said, noting that the state was the first to implement a 20-week abortion ban and has barred telemedicine for medication abortion. Further, she noted that another provider in the state -- LeRoy Carhart, who runs an abortion clinic in Bellevue -- has faced continued harassment from abortion-rights opponents (Stoddard, World-Herald Bureau/Norfolk Daily News, 6/28).