Clinic Tied Up in Courts, Michigan Planned Parenthood Affiliate Opens Clinic Elsewhere

By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL-ETF Director of Education & Research

Randall K. O'Bannon, Ph.D.

Temporarily thwarted in their efforts to build a clinic in Auburn Hills, Planned Parenthood will be opening a clinic in a different location in Oakland County, Michigan, one of the Detroit area’s northern suburbs.  Scheduled to open the first week of April, the new clinic in Ferndale will not offer abortions at this time, although abortion minded clients can be referred to the Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Detroit which does offer the abortion pill.

The clinic planned for Auburn Hills was to be somewhat of a joint venture between Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan (PPMSM) and local, state, and federal governments (see April/May 2010 NRL News).  The Auburn Hills City Council met in December of 2010 to discuss plans to direct $200,000 in state  funds to open new 17,000 square foot Planned Parenthood facility in the area so that federal family planning dollars would not go elsewhere (Detroit News, 12/9/10).

Local opposition to the clinic ended up in court after owners of a hotel adjacent to the property who claimed that both city ordinances and a covenant signed prior to purchase of the land prohibited its use as a medical facility (Detroit Free Press, 6/24/11).   Though a judge upheld Planned Parenthood’s right to build at the Auburn Hills location in January (Detroit Free Press, 1/11/12), the hotel owners have appealed the decision.

While the Auburn Hills project languished in legal limbo, PPMSM looked around for other “opportunities” in Oakland County.  “It’s not either or,” Desiree Cooper, spokesperson for the local Planned Parenthood told the Ferndale Patch.  “With Auburn Hills, we prefer to think of it as not happening yet.  We just have to wait for the legal process to lend its way before we can go forward” (Ferndale Patch, 3/26/12).

City and county officials were very supportive of Planned Parenthood and the clinic’s opening.  Craig Covey, Ferndale’s previous mayor and currently an Oakland County commissioner, said on his blog that Ferndale was “proud” to be the new location.  

Covey said that “Political pressure from religious ultra-conservatives had kept Oakland County bereft of a formal Planned Parenthood presence for years.”  Covey repeats the popular Planned Parenthood mantra that 97% of its services are for “essential life-saving cancer screenings, pap smears, breast health services, STD treatment, health counseling, and education, but neglects to tell people how abortion is the huge money maker that keeps Planned Parenthood in business.  Covey says that “We are thankful that an organization like Planned Parenthood provides health care for so many people.  The alternative is much higher health costs in emergency rooms and for advanced disease that would be borne by us all” (Ferndale Patch, 3/26/12)

Current Ferndale Mayor David Coulter says that the clinic’s opening is “good news,” pointing out that Ferncare, the free local clinic, has been overwhelmed, with a waiting list that is months long.  That free clinic does not provide any ob-gyn care, says Ferncare board president Ann Heler, though she says that women ask for help with mammograms, Pap smears and birth control “all the time” (Detroit Free Press, 3/26/12)

That the new Ferndale clinic, like other Planned Parenthoods, will not actually offer mammograms, but only referrals for mammograms, that they will refer for abortions, that they will either charge clients for services or bill the state or federal government, so that taxpayers pay for the services, does not seem to trouble the clinic’s local allies.

What PPMSM saw in Ferndale, Auburn Hills, and Oakland County was an economic opportunity.  Its clinics in surrounding communities were already seeing what the Free Press called “about 5,000 Oakland County residents” (3/26/12)  PPMSM spokesperson Desiree Cooper told the Ferndale Palch that “Oakland County does have a particular reputation for (higher incomes),” but argued that there were many pockets of the community that “have really been suffering a really long time” (3/26/12).

According to a PPMSM factsheet, its clinics performed 1,333 surgical abortions and 991 chemical abortions in 2010, for a total of 2,324 (see www.plannedparenthood.org/midsouthmi/files/mid-south-michigan/FactSheet_PPMSM_v3.pdf). 

Does anyone really expect that number to go down with a new Planned Parenthood clinic in the area referring (for now) for abortions and a new clinic slated to go up at the other end of the county as soon as the remaining legal hurdles are overcome?

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