By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
At a groundbreaking ceremony back in May of 2013, Planned Parenthood supporters insisted that a new clinic was essential and said it would be built “no matter what,” the New Orleans Times Picayune reported (5/22/2013).
“Planned Parenthood will be here for the women and families who need us,” Melaney Linton, Planned Parenthood’s president and CEO for the Gulf Coast region then told the Times Picayune. “And women in Louisiana desperately need Planned Parenthood.”
Don’t look for a welcome mat any time soon.
The new 7,000 square foot $4.2 million abortion clinic was supposed to be built by now, but all you’ll find at that location today is an empty lot.
One may yet be built there, but a unique combination of regulatory enforcement and personal activism has kept the clinic from being built so far. Whatever else happens, it has at the very least served to provide a critical delay that has made Planned Parenthood’s deadly agenda and mission more clear to the community.
Determining exactly who to thank for the delay is difficult, since many played a role.
Louisiana’s health department simply said the area didn’t need another abortion clinic. “Your application failed to establish the probability of serious, adverse consequences to recipients’ ability to access outpatient abortion services if you are not allowed to apply for licensure,” wrote Kathy Kliebert, Secretary of Louisiana’s Health and Hospitals department (Associated Press, 1/16/15).
Though Planned Parenthood and its supporters have talked about the need for a new clinic to address high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, and teen pregnancy, and vague unmet need for “health care” among poor women, it is critical to note that one service the new larger Planned Parenthood clinic is slated to offer is one the old clinic did not: abortion.
As it often does in these efforts, Planned Parenthood enlisted several fringe clergy to try to blunt any religious opposition in the community. Planned Parenthood’s national president Cecile Richards told the Gambit Weekly (10/22/13) there are a lot of “faith-based partners” proud to stand by the organization’s side.
“There were clergy members at a Baton Rogue event I just attended…. A lot of clergy I get to talk to are deeply concerned about teenage pregnancies in their congregations and sex education for young people. They want the young people in their communities to have the opportunity to finish high school, get a job and be able to support a family. This is where we have enormous common ground.”
However local religious and community leaders were not cowed. They formed their own opposition group, the NOLA Needs Peace Coalition. Headed by Louisiana Right to Life, the group includes local Baptist, Presbyterian, Full Gospel and other churches, as well as groups such as the Louisiana Family Forum and the Bioethics Defense Fund.
The group has not only gotten individuals and churches to sign on to a declaration that, with pressing issues like crippling poverty and violence, “New Orleans needs peace, not more abortion,” but held advocacy days, hosted community gatherings to educate the public, done outreach in local parks, and encouraged a letter writing campaigns to local government officials.
A press conference held on the street where the clinic is slated to be built drew attention to Planned Parenthood’s abortion agenda. Signs carried by supporters read “More Planned Parenthood = More Abortion.”
That publicity has made it harder for Planned Parenthood to find building contractors.
A key part of that opposition came from coalition member New Orleans Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond. He wrote in a public letter that “We cannot be silent in view of the grave injustice presented by the abortions that will be performed at the proposed Planned Parenthood facility.”
Archbishop Aymond went farther, pointing out that anyone involved in the “acquisition, preparation, and construction” of that facility or any abortion facility was “cooperating with the evil that will take place there.” He noted that the archdiocese would not in its own privately funded work “enter into business relationships with any person or organization that participates in actions that are essential to making this abortion facility a reality.”
Aymond said “Our fidelity to Church teaching and our conscience necessitates this stance.”
This principled stand has proven effective. Planned Parenthood admitted to Cosmopolitan (1/23/15) that at least one of the previous contractors had bowed out and others “said they would have taken the work but couldn’t risk it.” All this delayed construction.
Years of pro-life legislative effort have also borne fruit. In the past few years, Louisiana has passed an ultrasound viewing law (2012), a law banning web-cam abortions (2013), one requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals (2014), and a law barring anyone officially affiliated with an abortion performing organization from teaching sexual education in public schools (2014).
One new regulation that played a critical role in thwarting this latest Planned Parenthood expansion effort was an extension of the “Facility Need Review”(FNR) requirement in 2012 to cover abortion clinics. This meant no one could build a new clinic in Louisiana without proving to the state that the facility was needed.
Planned Parenthood applied for an FNR in October of 2014. Early last month, they received a letter from the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) telling Planned Parenthood its request was denied.
As mentioned above, DHH Secretary Kliebert wrote, “Your application failed to establish the probability of serious, adverse consequences to recipients’ ability to access outpatient abortion services if you are not allowed to apply for licensure,”
There are at least five other abortion clinics in the state, with two identified abortion “providers” in New Orleans. Planned Parenthood has two centers in the state, one in New Orleans, the other in Baton Rogue, neither of which currently advertise abortions.
Planned Parenthood talks of reaching more patients and expanding services with its new planned clinic, but the services it highlights – breast exams, cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment, etc, – can be handled by 22 other public and private providers in New Orleans, the NOLA Need Peace Coalition points out (www.nolaneedspeace.com/services.html).
The key new “service” that the new Planned Parenthood clinic would offer is abortion, making them players in the local abortion market. It is worth noting that, in the past, Planned Parenthood’s entry into the ranks of local abortionists has had the effect of pushing out smaller, individual private abortionists.
It is no random fact that while abortions in the U.S. as a whole have dropped by about a third since 1990, the number of abortions performed at Planned Parenthood affiliated clinics during the same time frame has dramatically increased, giving them an increasingly substantial share of the abortion market.
Few would be surprised if Planned Parenthood does not take to the courts to challenge the state laws or rulings, making the ultimate outcome unpredictable. And with enough money and connections, Planned Parenthood may eventually find contractors desperate enough to take on construction.
But with pro-life people banding together, the strong witness of the faith community, and principled leadership in the statehouse, a great evil has already been averted. Even if a new Planned Parenthood abortion clinic is eventually built, the pristine reputation of the organization and its commitment to “women’s health” will be questioned, and considered in light of its ultimate commitment to abortion and its lack of concern for young women waiting to be born.
Members of the community who, in ignorance, once thought of Planned Parenthood as just another health care provider offering services for the poor and a business opportunities for contractors and nurses, have had their eyes opened to the awful truth and will not want to be associated with the killing business.
Politicians who’ve been hailed for their concern and compassion and enjoyed the support and promotion of Planned Parenthood for many years will find that the public’s concern for the plight of the unborn cannot be politically papered over.
Every day that abortion clinic is kept at bay is another day that unborn babies live on the bayou.