The options for women’s healthcare services are being dramatically reduced in Southeast Iowa thanks to the actions of local Republican lawmakers like Mark Lofgren, Tom Greene and Gary Carlson. Planned Parenthood announced today that they will close four clinics by the end of June, including their Eastern Iowa locations of Bettendorf, Burlington and Keokuk. Sioux City’s clinic will close as well.
There are no Planned Parenthood clinics on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities, nor are there any in Missouri or Illinois near the border of the Southeast Iowa corner. Keokuk residents now face a nearly 100-mile drive to the Iowa City location. People living in surrounding rural Missouri and Illinois are looking at even further distances to either Iowa City or clinics in St. Louis, Peoria or Springfield.
Planned Parenthood will keep their locations open in Des Moines, Urbandale, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Iowa City, Council Bluffs and Ames.
The organization estimates that 80% or more of all family planning services in the Southeast Iowa counties of Lee and Des Moines happen at Planned Parenthood. That includes birth control access – which obviously prevents unplanned pregnancies in the first place – as well as cancer screenings, STD screenings and many other services.
During the 2016 election, it was many of these counties in Southeast Iowa that gave Republicans their legislative majorities, enabling them to defund Planned Parenthood, causing Iowa to lose federal matching funds in the process. Lofgren and Greene picked off Democratic-held senate seats in Burlington and Muscatine that were key to retaking the chamber. Meanwhile, Carlson, Ross Paustian and David Kerr kept competitive house districts for Republicans.
Counties all along the Mississippi border saw large swings to Donald Trump and the Republican Party, many of which were once reliable Democratic strongholds. Des Moines County (home to Burlington) shifted from a 58% to 40% Barack Obama win over Mitt Romney in 2012 to a 50% to 43% Trump victory in 2016. Lee County (home to Keokuk) saw Obama carry it in 2012 by a 57% to 41% margin, then Trump win it with 55% to 38%.
Many of the local Republicans openly campaigned on defunding Planned Parenthood. Voters there who helped usher in the new GOP majorities at the Statehouse essentially ensured that there will be more unplanned pregnancies in their hometowns, STDs will spread to more residents and Medicaid expenditures will increase as poorer women have more children. After similar closures of Planned Parenthood clinics occurred in Texas, births covered by Medicaid increased by 27%, while requests for certain kinds of birth control dropped by 36%. Scott County, Indiana saw an HIV outbreak after the local Planned Parenthood clinic was shuttered in 2013.
Republicans have tried to claim that other family planning clinics that do not also offer abortion services can pick up the slack, but the facts simply do not back that up. This stretch of the state contains many of the low-income workers who need affordable healthcare access that Planned Parenthood provided.
“We warned Republicans over and over again last session that their reckless actions to put ideology ahead of common sense would have a devastating impact on the lives of thousands of Iowa women and today those warnings have become reality,” said Democratic State Representative Lisa Heddens of Ames in a statement. “Instead of reducing access to health care services like Republican politicians, House Democrats will keep fighting alongside the 77% of Iowans who support services at Planned Parenthood and make sure health care is affordable and accessible to every family in Iowa.”
by Pat Rynard