September 29, 2016 — The District of Columbia's sole Planned Parenthood clinic celebrated its grand opening this week, the Washington Post reports (Stein, Washington Post, 9/27).
Planned Parenthood began construction on the site last summer. In December 2015, Two Rivers Public Charter School filed a lawsuit against abortion-rights opponents over allegedly harassing students as part of a campaign to halt construction on the clinic.
In the complaint, filed with the D.C. Superior Court, school officials said abortion-rights opponents engaged in "extreme and outrageous conduct" by targeting their students with graphic antiabortion messages and imagery. Two Rivers alleged that the protesters are a private nuisance and that they are intentionally causing emotional distress. According to the complaint, the protests have resulted in parents and students feeling fearful, and they have spurred teachers to keep the children indoors during recess.
The complaint stated that continued protests could damage the school's reputation and its ability to attract and retain students. The lawsuit named five defendants identified as protesters, including Maryland resident Robert Weiler, Jr., who was previously imprisoned for planning to bomb an abortion clinic.
Two Rivers requested a court order prohibiting the protesters from speaking with the students or engaging with them outside the school when students are arriving or leaving the premises. It also requested that protesters stop using graphic images and language.
In July, Weiler accepted an injunction that limits his actions outside of the school. The injunction stated that Weiler may not enter the school or impede access to it. Further, the injunction set a boundary around the school that Weiler may not cross to protest during certain times of day. It also barred Weiler from using displays larger than 11 by 17 inches that depict graphic antiabortion imagery or terminology (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/28).
Planned Parenthood completed construction on the new site, the Carol Whitehill Moses Center, earlier this month. The $20 million, 27-square-foot facility will serve both as a health care clinic and the administrative headquarters for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington (PPMW).
According to the Post, the facility replaces Planned Parenthood's former clinic in the District that closed last year after 40 years of operation. A second facility, located in Southeast Washington, closed down in 2014. During construction on the new clinic, PPMW had been providing care through weekly clinics hosted by Bread for the City, a not-for-profit located in the District's Shaw neighborhood.
The facility -- located on Fourth Street near Florida Avenue -- is one of four Planned Parenthood clinics in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The three other facilities are located in Maryland, specifically in Suitland, Gaithersburg and Silver Spring. Laura Meyers, president of PPMW, said the organization intends to open a fifth facility in the region.
Overall, PPMW officials said the organization provided care for more than 20,000 patients in fiscal year 2015.
Clinic services, security measures
Planned Parenthood officials said the clinic will likely provide care for more than 12,000 people during its first year. Meyers said, "There was tremendous unmet need ... With almost no advertising, patients are finding us."
The clinic has six exam rooms and four procedure rooms. It also includes areas that can be used for community and education outreach efforts, as well as patient rest areas.
The facility offers a wide range of reproductive and sexual health care services, including abortion care, breast and pelvic exams, same-day contraception, emergency contraception, human papillomavirus vaccinations and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. In addition, the facility will soon provide preventive medication for individuals at high risk of contracting HIV.
According to Meyers, PPMW designed the facility with security in mind. The clinic has security guards at the entrance and an outdoor courtyard so employees can leave privately, among other safety measures. Meyers said, "The building is very deliberately designed ... There isn't anything in the building we didn't think through -- security, of course, being one of the main concerns."
Meyers continued, "Our job is to provide high-quality health care and unbiased medical information," adding, "We wanted a space that really spoke to those values."
Separately, Tomeika Bowden, spokesperson for the D.C. Charter School Board, said Two Rivers hired an additional guard as a preventive security measure for the clinic's grand opening this week (Washington Post, 9/27).