Planned Parenthood said Monday it won’t reopen its abortion clinic in Appleton because the facility can’t meet the stricter security protocols the organization adopted after the deadly attack on one of its clinics in Colorado last year.
Women still will be able to obtain abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics in Madison and Milwaukee. Women in northern and central Wisconsin, however, may have to drive hundreds of miles to reach those facilities.
“We don’t take this decision lightly at all,” said Nicole Safar, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
The Appleton clinic suspended operations in October due to a staffing shortage, said Chris Williams, chief operating officer for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. A gunman killed three people in an attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs the following month, spurring Planned Parenthood to issue new security recommendations for its clinics across the country.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has been investing in upgrades at its Madison and Milwaukee facilities, Williams said, but the Appleton clinic is an older building and upgrades there would have cost nearly $300,000. He declined to say what specific changes would have been needed, but a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, Iris Riis, said in an email that the building isn’t big enough to accommodate the needed upgrades.
The clinic burned in 2012 after an anti-abortion activist, Francis Grady, smashed a window and threw a fire bomb inside. The facility was closed at the time and nobody was injured. Grady was eventually sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.
“The ... facility was just not going to be able to meet the more stringent and scrutinized approach that we need to take,” Williams told reporters during a conference call.
Planned Parenthood will still offer abortion services at clinics in Madison and Milwaukee. Affiliated Medical Services, another organization, also offers abortions at a Milwaukee facility.
Still, the Appleton closure means women across northern and central Wisconsin will have to drive perhaps 200 to 300 miles to Madison or Milwaukee or venture to Minneapolis or Chicago to obtain abortions. A single abortion provider affiliated with Planned Parenthood also provides services on an infrequent basis in Marquette, Michigan.
Teri Huyck, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin CEO, said the organization will offer women financial help for travel and hotel stays, if needed.
The Appleton clinic performed about 600 abortions per year, Williams said. The Madison and Milwaukee Planned Parenthood clinics perform about 3,400 abortions combined each year.
No one at the Appleton facility will lose their jobs, Williams said. Some have been moved to other Planned Parenthood health centers that don’t provide abortions. Others have been shifted to the Milwaukee abortion clinic.
Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, a conservative group that advocates for the traditional family and anti-abortion causes, applauded the decision to close the clinic.
“Any time we keep a Planned Parenthood facility shuttered, it’s in the best interest of women in the area,” she said.
The closure comes after a federal appeals court panel last fall struck down a Republican-backed law that required Wisconsin abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Planned Parenthood and AMS filed a lawsuit arguing that the requirement would effectively close the Appleton clinic and AMS’ Milwaukee facility because providers at the two facilities lacked such privileges and couldn’t obtain them.
The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a similar law in Texas, essentially invalidating admitting-privilege requirements for abortion providers nationwide.