By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D. NRL Director of Education & Research, and Dave Andrusko, NRL News Today editor
It was no more than a casual throwaway line in some of last week’s stories. You’ll recall there was a media firestorm of sorts when Planned Parenthood of Greater New York decided it was time to remove Margaret Sanger’s name from its Manhattan health clinic. Why, you ask?
For her “harmful connections to the eugenics movement.” More specifically, “The removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color,” according to Karen Seltzer, the chair of the New York affiliate’s board.
This all takes on great significance in light of the aforementioned throwaway line: Planned Parenthood of Greater New York was now PPFA’s largest—and therefore most powerful—affiliate.
Although preparations were several months in the making, it was not until this past January that five of Planned Parenthood’s New York state affiliates officially announced that they had merged. These include Planned Parenthood of New York City, Planned Parenthood of Nassau County (the heavily populated county on Long Island just east of New York City), Planned Parenthood Mohawk-Hudson (upstate New York area including Schenectady and Utica), Planned Parenthood of the Mid-Hudson Valley (Poughkeepsie area), and Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes (area including Ithaca and several counties bordering Pennsylvania).
Planned Parenthood of Greater New York operates 28 clinics and covers 65% of the state’s population. At the time of the merger, Laura McQuade, president and CEO of the New York City affiliate headed the new consolidated group. (As NRL News Today has reported, McQuade just recently was ousted following a blistering “Open Letter” criticizing her for many failings.)
Four other affiliates continue to cover other areas of north and west New York state, as well as eastern Long Island, the area just north of New York City, and counties in and around Albany.
If all the original clinics remain open, there would be 28 in the areas covered by the new merged affiliate, involving some 200,000 annual patient visits. Not every one of those patient visits involves abortion and only some of those clinics offer abortion. However each of the merging five affiliates has at least one abortion performing clinic and, even without New York City, which some have termed the “abortion capital” of the U.S., they exist in the some of the New York counties reporting some of the highest numbers of abortions in the state.
In leading up the official merger, there were public announcements that (at least for the immediate future) the merger would not lead to any closures (Times Herald Record – Middleton, NY, 5/18/19), and that no reductions in workforce were expected (Crain’s New York Business 5/16/19). At the same time, other officials also said that one of the reasons for move was to reduce administrative costs (Daily Gazette – Schenectady, 5/14/19).
In the press release announcing the merger, several of the original affiliate officers talked about the merger as a way to “reach more patients,”“serve more people,” or “serving more New Yorkers.” Kim Atkins, President and CEO for Mohawk Hudson, said the merger “allows for expansion and growth that will be technologically innovative by connecting patients to health care in a modern way. (PP New York City release, 5/15/19).
The release also talks about “the ability to expand telehealth services to deliver more convenient care to current patients and importantly, to improved access to underserved communities, including in rural areas on the state.”
Although now telehealth is all the rage, when they made this announcement, the only “telehealth” service with which any Planned Parenthood affiliate had been known to be involved with was the web-cam chemical abortion that started back in Iowa in 2008 and had spread to ten states as of February 2018 (PPFA Release, 2/6/18).
A cascade of mergers
There seem to have been a cascade of mergers at Planned Parenthood in the last few years. Going back forty years, there were as many as 190 affiliates. As recently as 2008, there were supposed to have been at least 105 affiliates (Lincoln Courier, 2/8/08). At the time intention of the merger was first announced, the Schenectady’s Daily Gazette (5/14/19) was reporting that there were just 53.
The pattern is what you might expect. Generally the larger, richer more aggressive affiliate gobble up the smaller ones.
But increasingly even some of the larger affiliates have banded together to increase their strength. (See here.)
That there is still a desire to merge affiliates even after so many have already taken place is a sign that the group believes it can increase its revenue and political muscle even further. An increase in genuine health care services, which have been on the decline for years?
Not so much—or even at all.
Conclusion? While the structure appears to have changed, and maybe even the leadership, the mission has not at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York.
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