Planned Parenthood is expanding in Kansas with a new clinic in Pittsburg

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Planned Parenthood Great Plains’ Pittsburg health center will offer abortions, contraception and other care beginning this fall.

WICHITA — Planned Parenthood Great Plains is expanding in Kansas in the face of immense demand for abortions in the state, driven by a surge of people traveling from states with abortion bans.

The organization is planning to open a new health center in Pittsburg, Kansas, later this year, according to the organization’s president and CEO, Emily Wales. It will initially offer abortions — both medication and procedural — as well as contraception, and sexually transmitted infection and HIV testing and treatment. The clinic will eventually offer gender-affirming care and vasectomies.

Wales said the move will allow the organization to expand its capacity to provide abortions in Kansas, making it easier for patients in Kansas and across the broader region to secure appointments.

“In this moment of the abortion crisis, we could be in no better place than southeast Kansas,” she said. “We cannot have too many appointments for the amount of people who are desperate for care right now.”

The clinic is slated to open in the fall. Wales said construction on the building is underway and the organization will begin hiring staff shortly.

It will be the third clinic providing abortions to open in Kansas since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, prompting many surrounding states to severely restrict or ban abortion care. The result, according to data from the state health department and researchers, has been an unprecedented swell of patients crossing state lines to access procedures and pills that are now outlawed where they live.

Many are turning to Kansas, where providers say they can’t come close to meeting the demand — forcing many patients to travel even further from home.

The Pittsburg clinic will be Planned Parenthood’s fourth health center in the state and its first in southeast Kansas.

Wales said the organization chose Pittsburg for the new health center, in part, to help alleviate intense demand for abortions at its Wichita clinic, which has become one of the closest access points for large swaths of the South and Midwest.

Over half of the patients at Planned Parenthood’s Kansas clinics now come from Texas due to the state’s near-total abortion ban.
Over half of the patients at Planned Parenthood’s Kansas clinics now come from Texas due to the state’s near-total abortion ban.

But she said the new clinic will also help address a lack of access to health care in Pittsburg and the surrounding region.

“There are not enough health care providers there,” she said, “and there are certainly not enough providers of sexual and reproductive care — particularly gender-affirming services.”

Wales noted that Crawford County residents are more likely to have an STI than Kansans overall, according to a Kansas Health Institute analysis. A report by the reproductive rights group Power to Decide indicated 37% of Crawford County women ages 13-44 are in need of publicly funded contraception.

Abortion opponents criticized the announcement. In an email, Danielle Underwood, a spokesperson for the anti-abortion advocacy group Kansans for Life, drew a contrast between the new clinic and anti-abortion pregnancy centers — which provide resources to people with unplanned pregnancies but often discourage them from getting abortions.

“As we predicted, the abortion industry is moving quickly to open more abortion facilities … While they profit off a woman’s vulnerability, pregnancy resource centers will continue to offer no cost support to any woman who wants a caring and compassionate alternative,” Underwood said.

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Record demand at a Wichita clinic

Dr. Lydia Prevost, a family medicine physician who provides abortions at Planned Parenthood’s Kansas clinics, sees the consequences of abortion bans in neighboring states first-hand. Often, she said, it means patients can’t get an abortion appointment until further into their pregnancy, making the procedure more complicated.

“Abortion, overall, is an extremely safe procedure,” Prevost said in between appointments on a busy day at Planned Parenthood’s health center in Wichita. “But the complication rate does slightly increase the later on in pregnancy that you are — so it’s really important that people are able to access care as soon as they realize that they’re needing this care.”

Since the Dobbs decision, she said, a significant majority of patients at the organization’s Kansas clinics travel from other states. Over half come from Texas alone, often having traveled eight hours or longer to reach the clinic. Still, many people who call seeking appointments are turned away due to a lack of availability.

“Patients from … all over the Midwest and the Southeast are coming here,” Prevost said, “because they don’t have anywhere closer to go.”

The new location will help relieve some of that demand: Pittsburg is just minutes from the Kansas-Missouri border, and it’s also accessible to patients traveling from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

But Dr. Iman Alsaden, Planned Parenthood Great Plains’ chief medical officer, said it still won’t fully meet the demand for abortions in the state.

“The demand is there — I think the demand would be there for multiple clinics,” Alsaden said. “This will be another touch point for people to be able to access care where and when they need it.”

Planned Parenthood’s Pittsburg clinic will be the organization’s first in Southeast Kansas.
Planned Parenthood’s Pittsburg clinic will be the organization’s first in Southeast Kansas.

Wales hopes, once the clinic opens, it will also make abortion appointments more accessible for Kansans — some of whom are forced to travel out-of-state due to a lack of local availability.

“Kansans are often shocked when they call us and find out how tough it is to get an appointment,” she said. “We never want to say to someone who lives close to one of our health centers, ‘Sorry, you might have to look at Illinois or Colorado.’”

An abortion ‘destination’

Planned Parenthood’s announcement comes as anti-abortion advocates in Kansas decry the state’s role as a “destination” for abortions following the Dobbs decision and subsequent rise in abortion numbers.

And it follows recent legislative victories focused on further restricting abortions and funding anti-abortion groups, including one that will require patients to tell their doctors why they’re getting an abortion.

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Abortion remains legal in Kansas until 22 weeks gestation, but there are a number of restrictions, including parental consent rules for minors and limitations on which medical professionals can provide abortions. Some other restrictions are currently on hold due to a court case that will be heard in June.

In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson recently signed a law that will prevent Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving reimbursement for treating Medicaid patients. The organization hasn’t provided abortions in Missouri for two years due to a state ban, but still offers birth control, cancer screenings and other services. Staff there say they’ll continue to treat Medicaid patients, offsetting the cost of their care through private donations.

It’s the latest in a tenuous back-and-forth between reproductive rights advocates and abortion opponents playing out in court rooms and state legislatures across the country. The issue will be on the ballot in several states this fall.

Wales said the rise in abortions in Kansas is happening because so many people can no longer access them in their home states.

“We tell patients every single day, ‘We are so sorry that your state doesn’t recognize your right to get critical, often life-saving care,'” she said, “‘but what a relief to welcome you here to Kansas.’”

Rose Conlon reports on health for KMUW and the Kansas News Service.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

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