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Planned Parenthood to close a third of its clinics in Iowa due to state cuts

REUTERS/Ilana Panich-Linsman/File Photo

Four of the 12 Planned Parenthood health centers in Iowa will have to close because of a new state law aimed at cutting off public funds to the women's health organization, officials with the group said Thursday.

Clinics in Sioux City, Burlington and Keokuk will close June 30, officials said, and one in Quad Cities will continue to provide abortions until the building is sold. The closures will affect 14,676 patients, many of whom live in areas with scant resources for poor women seeking services like birth control, according to Planned Parenthood.

"We will do everything we can to continue to care for as many patients as we can," Suzanna de Baca, president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement. "However, the harsh reality is that, despite all our efforts, there will be women who fall through the cracks and lose access to health care because of this dangerous legislation."

Antiabortion groups celebrated the news that the clinics would shutter and suggested that other health centers could absorb the patients.

"This is good news for families in the state of Iowa," Maggie DeWitte, director of Iowans for Life, said in a statement. "There are many quality community health centers in Iowa that provide comprehensive health care to women and families across the state. And they do so without taking the life of precious human beings."

The appropriations bill Gov. Terry Branstad, R, signed last week ends a program that used mostly federal dollars to provide family planning services to low-income women. Branstad has said it will be replaced by a state-funded program that will direct funds to organizations that do not provide abortions. It follows a similar move by Texas four years ago.

The measure is the latest effort by Republicans nationally to halt the flow of public money to Planned Parenthood, a 100-year-old nonprofit that provides birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings and other services at hundreds of clinics in nearly every state.

By law, federal funds cannot be used to pay directly for abortions except in narrow circumstances. But antiabortion activists say taxpayer money should not support Planned Parenthood's non-abortion work because the organization performs hundreds of thousands of abortions every year and is among the most vocal proponents of abortion rights.

Congressional Republicans are seeking to cut Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled, with the House earlier this month passing a health-care bill that would do just that. Republican-led states also have sought to block taxpayer money from supporting the organization.

Planned Parenthood and its supporters have tried to push back against the measures, arguing they could lead to gutting services for the millions of people who rely on the organization for their health care.

In three of the four Iowa counties where clinics are shuttering, Planned Parenthood served 80 percent or more of the women who received birth control at a publicly funded health center, officials said. In the case of Keokuk, women in that community will have to drive nearly an hour to find the closest provider of safety-net family planning services, they said.

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