Planned Parenthood closing three Iowa clinics, expanding abortion services at others

June 28, 2023, 9 a.m. ·

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Planned Parenthood is closing three of its nine clinics in Iowa while expanding abortion services at many of its remaining locations. (Sarah Boden / IPR File)

Planned Parenthood is closing three of its nine clinics in Iowa while expanding abortion services at many of its remaining locations.

Clinics in Cedar Falls, Council Bluffs, and the south side of Des Moines will be closed, with staff and services moving to other locations. Planned Parenthood officials say it’s a response to staffing shortages and increased costs.

They’re working to expand abortion services in Ames, Iowa City, Omaha, Cedar Rapids and at the Des Moines clinic near Drake University.

“Consolidating locations will prevent the routine closing of health centers due to staffing shortages, ensuring that patients experience a continuity of care,” said Mazie Stilwell, Iowa public affairs director for Planned Parenthood North Central States. “I must emphasize that while the number of Planned Parenthood health centers will decrease, these changes will increase the number of patients that we can see.”

Stilwell said the south Des Moines and Council Bluffs locations won’t close until the Ames and Omaha clinics are ready to take on more patients.

The Cedar Falls clinic has already closed because of staffing shortages. She said recruiting sexual and reproductive health providers has particularly been a challenge there.

“While the additional travel time is an added barrier for patients, we are hopeful that the added investments in Cedar Rapids in the next year…will remove other barriers that patients face,” Stilwell said.

Planned Parenthood is planning to provide abortions in Cedar Rapids for the first time.

Another major change under this new plan is that patients in the Des Moines area will eventually need to travel to Ames if they’re seeking a procedural abortion. Only medication abortions would be offered at the remaining Des Moines clinic.

Planned Parenthood’s other Iowa clinics are in Sioux City, which provides abortions, and Urbandale, which does not provide abortions.

The clinic consolidations were announced almost a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the nationwide right to abortion, and just a few days after the Iowa Supreme Court deadlocked and allowed abortion to remain legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Republican state leaders say they will keep trying to restrict abortion, but it’s not clear when or how that might happen.

Dr. Sarah Traxler, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood North Central States, said demand for abortions in the five-state region has increased, with a nearly 100% jump in patients traveling from outside the region to get abortions in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.

But Iowa has had a drop in abortions provided by Planned Parenthood.

“Since the fall of Roe almost a year ago, we’ve seen a 13% decrease in abortions in Iowa by Planned Parenthood because of a mandated, medically unnecessary 24 hour waiting period that went into effect last year, as well as staffing shortages in our health centers that provide abortion," Traxler said.

Traxler said there is burnout among health care staff in general, and she believes the hostility toward Planned Parenthood adds stigma and stress that contribute to challenges in recruiting and retaining staff.