August 24, 2016 — Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (PPW) on Monday announced that it would permanently close down its clinic in Grand Chute, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/22).
Details on closure
Chris Williams, chief operating officer at PPW, said the Grand Chute clinic originally suspended its services in October 2015, amid a staffing shortage. Separately, in November 2015, a shooter killed three individuals at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, prompting Planned Parenthood to release updated security guidelines for all its clinics throughout the United States. The Grand Chute clinic had previously been targeted by an abortion-rights opponent, who in 2012 set fire to the facility.
Following the new guidance, PPW began upgrades to its clinics in Madison and Milwaukee. However, Williams said PPW opted not to update the Grand Chute clinic because the facility is older and would require nearly $300,000 in renovations (Richmond, AP/Star Tribune, 8/22). Iris Riis, a spokesperson for PPW, added that the clinic's lot is too small to accommodate all the necessary security upgrades (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/22).
Williams said, "The ... facility was just not going to be able to meet the more stringent and scrutinized approach that we need to take" (AP/Star Tribune, 8/22). According to Williams, the clinic's closure is unrelated to the staffing shortage, which had been resolved.
PPW officials said they were unaware of any other similar decisions to close clinics following the security review (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/22).
Closure will limit abortion access for some state residents
According to the AP/Star Tribune, Wisconsin women will still be able to access abortion care at Planned Parenthood clinics in Madison and Milwaukee, as well as at another Milwaukee provider, Affiliated Medical Services (AP/Star Tribune, 8/22). In addition, a clinic in Appleton, near Grand Chute, that offers contraception and cancer screenings will continue providing services (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/22).
However, the closure of the Grand Chute clinic will limit access to abortion care for women in northern and central Wisconsin, the AP/Star Tribune reports. Women in those regions in some cases will have to travel between 200 and 300 miles to access care in Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis or Chicago. Women may also be able to access care at another Planned Parenthood affiliate in Marquette, Michigan, which infrequently provides abortion care.
Teri Huyck, CEO of PPW, said Planned Parenthood will help arrange financial assistance for women who incur travel or boarding costs while trying to access care.
Williams said none of the Grand Chute clinic staff will be laid off. Some of the staff have been relocated to Planned Parenthood clinics that do not offer abortion care, while others have been moved to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Milwaukee (AP/Star Tribune, 8/22).
Separately, Kathy Hartke, chair of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said the clinic's closure will have a disproportionate effect on low-income women who are unable to afford the travel and boarding costs necessary to access care elsewhere in the state. She linked the clinic's closure to antiabortion-rights rhetoric, conservative restrictions on abortion care and the repeal of a state law mandating that schools in Wisconsin offer comprehensive sexuality education.
Discussing the women who will be unable to access care, Hartke said, "These women are suffering due to political maneuvering" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/22).