Another Big Merger at Planned Parenthood: Heartland Affiliate Joins Minnesota and Dakotas

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

Sarah Stoesz will be the president of the new consolidated organization which will be known as Planned Parenthood North Central States.

Editor’s note. My family and I will be on our vacation through September 7. I will occasionally add new items but for the most part we will repost “the best of the best” — the stories our readers have told us they especially liked.

In a move Planned Parenthood calls “integration” or a “growth initiative” but the press calls a “consolidation” (Minnesota Star Tribune, 5/22) or a “shakeup” (KCCI, 5/23), Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which operates in Iowa and eastern Nebraska, is joining Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Suzanna de Baca, president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH), is stepping down. Sarah Stoesz, the leader of the Minnesota-based chapter, will be the president of the new consolidated organization which will be known as Planned Parenthood North Central States.

If the national organization approves the new name and structure, the merger is set to take place on July 1, 2018.

In an interview with Tony Leys of the Des Moines Register

de Baca portrayed the consolidation as a way for the Planned Parenthood chapters to focus their efforts at a time when their mission and financing have come under attack by abortion opponents. She said there are no plans to close any of Planned Parenthood’s eight clinics in Iowa or two in Nebraska.

“This is not a strategy to cut,” she said. “Planned Parenthood is still open and getting stronger. … We are not going to back down.”

New leadership told the Omaha World Herald that the group’s clinics in Omaha and Lincoln (both of which offer both surgical and chemical abortion) would stay open and that the organization is not eliminating any current health services.

Andi Curry Grub, Planned Parenthood’s new executive director in Nebraska, told the Omaha World Herald, “We’re not backing down.”

According to the World Herald’s Emily Nitcher

[Deputy state director Meg] Mikolajczyk and Curry Grubb said having leadership in Nebraska will allow the organization to focus on what Nebraska needs and build its political influence

However Nebraska Right to Life’s executive director Julie Schmit-Albin warned that Planned Parenthood’s restructuring efforts are unlikely to work in her state. “Nebraska Right to Life has worked since 1973 to develop grassroots pro-life activists in every county,” she told NRL News Today. “The political and legislative success of the pro-life movement here and across the nation is tied to the fact that we have always been a ground up, grassroots movement.”

If Planned Parenthood “wants to replicate the strength of our pro-life grassroots in every county they are going to find it very difficult,” Schmit-Albin added. “While Planned Parenthood has relied on the courts to do its bidding for the past 45 years, we’ve been building and engaging pro-life activists all over the State. In a conservative political State Planned Parenthood is not going to be able to build the same grassroots structure that has out-worked them politically and legislatively for decades.”

For years, PPH was itself one of the dominant players in the Midwest. Its Des Moines, Iowa, clinic was part of the RU-486 trials in the 1990s and then they were the first to introduce the concept of the “web-cam” abortion in 2000s (1)

Originally covering just part of Iowa, PPH merged with the other smaller Iowa affiliates and eventually took over Nebraska’s clinics as well. At the time it announced plans to add more. Jill June headed the Iowa based affiliate for over 30 years, gaining accolades from the industry and the press for her aggressive expansion and vision.

Things have apparently not gone well in the last several years at PPH, and perhaps have gotten worse since June stepped down in 2014. Several of PPH’s clinics have closed – clinics in Newton, Storm Lake, Knoxville, Spencer, Fort Madison through 2014, Dubuque, Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City since.

The most recent closures were blamed on “the Legislature’s decision to effectively cut off $2 million in Medicaid money Planned Parenthood of the Heartland used to receive to provide birth control services to moderate-income Iowans,” the Des Moines Register reported.

At some point this became too much for the organization and the decision was made to put PPH under new leadership–Sarah Stoesz–with her designated lieutenants taking over as executive directors in Iowa and Nebraska. de Baca officially steps effective September 30.

Mergers among Planned Parenthood affiliates have become common in the past decade. About a hundred were listed as recently as 2010. The most recent Planned Parenthood annual report (2016-17) indicates there are now 56 (not counting this most recent merger).

In this “consolidation” process, bigger, richer, more powerful affiliates gobble up smaller ones, closing unprofitable (usually non-abortion performing) clinics, getting rid of expensive middle management, bringing in younger, more aggressive, more politically savvy managers. In their place are brand new shiny mega-clinics to attract new patients, centralize abortion, and handle higher volume.

In the end, many clinics close, most “services” (other than abortion) decline, employees get fired or they retire, but the organization typically emerges more politically powerful and on stronger financial footing.

One need look only to PPFA’s most recent report to see exploding revenues, now a record $1.459 billion. This took place in the midst of declining number of “cancer screenings” (down 67.2% since 2005), breast exams (down 60.1%), and even Planned Parenthood supposed premier product, birth control (down 27.5%).

What has increased, or at least held steady in recent years at Planned Parenthood was, you may have guessed, abortion. Planned Parenthood performed 321,384 in 2016 compared to 264,943 in 2005. The average cost of an abortion runs somewhere around $480, making it obvious how Planned Parenthood can balance the books while generally losing patients (3 million total clients in 2008, but just 2.4 million in the most recent annual report) and selling fewer contraceptive.

The new regional affiliate will be responsible not just for the two clinics in Nebraska, but for 29 clinics and more than 114,000 patients across Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

(1) In a web-cam abortion, a woman at a smaller, remote location teleconferences with an abortionist back in the big city. If the doctor gets satisfactory answers, he triggers the release of a drawer at her location containing the abortion pills. She takes those and is given a hotline number to call if she has problems.