Budget cuts close 6 Planned Parenthood clinics in Minnesota

  • Article by: JEREMY OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 20, 2011 - 10:55 PM

Planned Parenthood cites drop in Title X funding, a target of abortion foes in Congress.

Planned Parenthood is closing six clinics in outstate Minnesota on Aug. 1 because of federal budget cuts made this spring in a highly politicized abortion battle.

The state's largest provider of family planning and abortions announced the closures Monday, citing an 11 percent reduction in its budget because of cuts to the federal Title X program.

Closing are clinics in Thief River Falls, Brainerd, Red Wing, Owatonna, Albert Lea and Fairmont. They did not perform abortions, but provided services ranging from contraception to cervical cancer screenings to testing for sexually-transmitted diseases. Clients will be encouraged to use any of the 18 remaining Planned Parenthood facilities in the state and the organization's website.

The clinics being closed are among the smallest and are relatively close to clinics in larger cities such as Rochester and Mankato. Unaffected is Planned Parenthood's clinic in St. Paul, which performed nearly one-third of the 12,388 abortions in Minnesota in 2009.

The loss of family planning services for women in the affected communities could drive up state health care costs -- and the number of abortions, said Sarah Stoesz, executive director of Planned Parenthood's chapter for Minnesota and the Dakotas.

"Those who attack family planning programs under the guise of being opposed to abortion are creating the exact opposite effect and driving abortion rates up," she said.

The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group based in New York, estimated this spring that without any Title X funding for low-income women and families, Minnesota would see a 17 percent increase in unintended pregnancies, a 24 percent increase in abortions and a 33 percent increase in teen births. Those figures were based on the complete elimination of Title X, as some Republican lawmakers had proposed, and not the last-minute cuts negotiated in April to avoid a federal shutdown.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is among the lawmakers who called for de-funding Title X. While the program cannot fund abortions, lawmakers still opposed the secondary financial support it offered to organizations that provide them. "Taxpayer funds should not be directed to this heinous organization, especially at a time when our nation's debt exceeds $14 trillion," Bachmann's press secretary, Becky Rogness, said Monday.

Minnesota has received roughly $3.5 million per year in Title X funds, with $3 million going to Planned Parenthood and the rest going to a Ramsey County family planning program. The state has an estimated 250,000 women in need of subsidized reproductive health care. One-fifth get services at Planned Parenthood.

Until now, Planned Parenthood has grown in Minnesota, with the addition of three suburban retail storefronts and a new central facility in St. Paul's University Avenue corridor that is halfway complete. Stoesz said the popular storefronts are covering their costs and that the new headquarters was funded by donors, not public money.

She said Planned Parenthood might lose other income from the 20 to 25 percent of clients at the six clinics who pay for services out of pocket or with private insurance.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744

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