For 13,100 women living in Burlington, Iowa, it keeps getting trickier to access affordable reproductive health care.
The town’s Planned Parenthood provider closed in 2017. It forced residents to travel about 80 miles away to Iowa City just for routine checkups and to get birth control.
Dr. Michael McCoy, chief medical officer for Great River Health System and an OBGYN at Women’s Health—Great River Medical Center decided women deserved better.
He set up a gathering of healthcare providers in the community to figure out what it would take to get a new Title X clinic in the area.
Healthcare providers such as Community Health Center, Great River Health System, Des Moines County Health Department, Community Action, and Alcohol and Drug Dependency Services stepped up when called upon, and within a year a new Title X clinic, Family Planning of Southeast Iowa opened in Burlington.
Legal abortions aren’t an option
Abortions are legal in Iowa, but Cherry Klein, clinic manager, said they aren’t provided at the family planning clinic.
Instead, the clinic only offers pregnant women “information about all their legal options.”
“We ask the patient what information they would like,” Klein said.
A new gag rule proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration could soon prevent the clinic from even asking that question.
That gag rule proposed last Monday would prevent health care providers from referring women to places where they can get abortions.
It could also impact the information the clinics are allowed to give, Klein said.
“We are actually still waiting on detailed guidance on that and to find out exactly what implementation is,” she said.
At the moment, Family Planning of Southeast Iowa is continuing operations as normal in regards to both information and referrals.
“We follow medical protocols that are actually developed by the Family Planning Council and their medical committee, and they have to be approved by our medical director,” Klein said. “They get guidance from their higher-ups on clarifying how any kind of policies have to be implemented. And then they pass that down to us in the form of a protocol.”
In response to the announcement, Planned Parenthoods across the country have announced that they’ve stopped using Title X funds in response to the administration’s announcement.
Abortion is still legal nationwide. In Iowa, pregnancies can be terminated until up to 20 weeks gestation.
Klein said if Family Planning of Southeast Iowa was barred from giving patients information about abortions, it would be up to people’s primary care providers — if they want to — or the internet to supply that information.
The gag rule, she said, would introduce difficulties for the clinic’s ability to administer care.
“I think it’s just the difficulty of people expecting that they come to a provider like a family planning clinic that they would be able to get information about all of their legal options,” Klein said. “I think there’s going to be a limit on how specific we can get when answering some of these questions, so that’s what I just don’t know yet.”
by Nikoel Hytrek