Planned Parenthood Will Close A Third Of Its Iowa Clinics

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After what seems like ages of conservative lawmakers threatening to cut funding from abortion providers, it has finally happened: As announced on Thursday, Planned Parenthood will close four Iowa clinics in the coming months. The decision is thanks to a new Iowa policy that prohibits public money from funding abortion providers, but it's not just women seeking abortions who will lose out.

Iowa's state legislature recently approved a new budget that discontinues the existing Medicaid family planning program and replaces it with a state program that bans funding for abortion providers. As a result, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which operates clinics in Iowa and Nebraska, will reportedly lose $2 million in funding. The budget cuts will require Planned Parenthood to close four of the 12 Iowa clinics that it currently operates. The four clinics that will close — located in Burlington, Keokuk, Quad Cities, and Sioux City — have served 14,676 patients over the last three years.

The locations served by those four Planned Parenthood clinics represent both sides of the state, and some of its most densely populated communities. In a state where much of the population is rural, women across Iowa are sure to feel the impacts.

In March, a report from The Atlantic attempted to measure those impacts. According to the report, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland had served 30 percent of the individuals on Iowa's Medicaid family planning program. With the program gone and a third of the state's Planned Parenthood clinics closing, those individuals may lose access to affordable health care.  

If the past is any precedent, then Iowa's Planned Parenthood closures could correlate with an uptick in births among low-income mothers. That's what happened in Texas after the state blocked abortion-clinic funding in 2011. Between 2011 and 2014, the number of births covered by Medicaid reportedly grew by 27 percent. That's not to say more births would occur because of a lack of abortion providers. Rather, the correlation could also indicate that low-income women have reduced access to contraception. It's impossible to pinpoint a specifically causal relationship, but the correlation still matters. Of course, the Planned Parenthood closures also mean that women in Iowa may lose access to important health screenings and exams.

Back in April, President Trump signed into law a congressionally approved bill that allowed states to cut funding from Planned Parenthood. Ultimately, that law gave Iowa's Republican-led state legislature the ability to change its family planning system. In April, a similar bill was approved by a senate committee in Pennsylvania's state legislature. In other words, Planned Parenthood's services may not be safe in other states for long.