FAIRMONT - After nearly 40 years, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairmont is closing.
Earlier this year, Republican lawmakers were pushing to nix the federal Title X family planning program and Planned Parenthood altogether in a controversial move to reduce the federal debt. They were not able to get the necessary votes, but did succeed in passing a 5.5 percent cut to Title X funding. Since the cut is retroactive to September 2010, the impact on Planned Parenthood is actually 11 percent of the organization's budget.
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota announced Monday that it will close six clinics as a result of the cuts. Clinic locations closing Aug. 1 are Fairmont, Albert Lea, Owatonna, Red Wing, Brainerd and Thief River Falls. Statewide, about 4,500 patients will be affected, said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO.
"For this program to be cut when it has helped so many people and saved the government so much money in the long run is shocking. It's outrageous," Stoesz said in a phone interview Monday afternoon.
Fairmont's clinic is located at Victoria State Crossing on South State Street. Open only on Wednesdays, the site is one of Planned Parenthood's smallest in Minnesota. In 2010, 386 patients were seen at the clinic. Nearly 90 percent were adults, and almost all were eligible for health care services at little to no cost.
To counteract the negative impact of the closures, Planned Parenthood is increasing staff as well as evening and weekend hours at clinics in Rochester, Mankato, Moorhead, Duluth and St. Cloud.
But despite their efforts, according to Stoesz, there will be consequences as a result of the cuts.
"We know there will be. There's no question about it," she said. "There have been studies that show when family planning is cut, more unplanned pregnancies occur. ... I don't think it takes a genius to know that. It's a pretty straightforward equation. That's why this program has had such success for years, why it's had such strong bipartisan support for years, because people have understood it to be common sense and practical."
Referring to Republicans' attempt this March to cut Planned Parenthood altogether, Stoesz said the effort "definitely brought to light the ideological point of view those folks have about funding for women's reproductive health care.
"They said it's about abortion, but it's not about abortion," she said. "... No federal funds cover abortion and they never have. This is purely and simply an attack on women and their rights to reproductive health care. And it is an outrage that women should be potentially forced into unintended pregnancies due to lack of birth control."
Besides the clinics that Planned Parenthood closed, the organization also eliminated some administrative staff members, but it's not the end, Stoesz said.
"Planned Parenthood has been serving patients in Minnesota for 84 years, and we intend to serve patients another 84 year. This should in no way be interpreted as the demise of Planned Parenthood, but it does underscore that we need to be serving our patients in different ways and different locations. ... We are very dedicated to our patients, and we will not abandon them."