Richards does expect a large portion of the Sioux City Planned Parenthood’s roughly 4,800 patients to come to Siouxland, but he has a lot of unanswered questions. He’ll spend the coming days and weeks assessing exactly how many patients will come for care, from how far they will come, what services they need, and whether more staff will need to be hired.
Ron Kemp, the CEO of Community Health Centers of Southeast Iowa, said he’s met with several community-health providers to assess what the need will be. Two of Kemp’s clinics, in Keokuk and Burlington, will likely see a large portion of Planned Parenthood’s displaced patients.
One of his main concerns is increasing the clinics’ contraceptive capabilities. Occasionally, he said, his clinics actually refer patients looking for the more expensive, long-acting reversible contraceptives to Planned Parenthood. Those methods, which include things like implants and IUDs, “have historically been a financial issue for community health centers,” he said.
Another worry is that Planned Parenthood’s patients might be reluctant to seek out another provider. “Will people go without care?” Kemp asked, worrying that some will, “not because the capacity won’t be there but because we haven’t developed those relationships as providers.”
Many of Planned Parenthood’s patients are young people who visit their health centers, sometimes in a crisis, to get information in a safe, confidential environment. Richards, the Siouxland representative, said he’s concerned about replicating that: “They don’t want to go somewhere where they might run into their neighbor from down the street or their family member,” Richards said. “It would be tough, just losing that choice and that place that’s maybe more comforting and quieter to go to.”
All of that rings true for Rucinski, who was raised by conservative parents in a religious family in Burlington. She said there are a lot of conservative families in the area who don’t talk to their children about birth control. “A lot of times it’s their children who end up in the clinic and need help,” Rucinski said. “I was one of them. Planned Parenthood gave me the information that the adults in my life never did.”
Rucinski works at a diner in town, makes minimum wage, and now has health insurance through the individual market under the Affordable Care Act. She’s worried that she’ll have a hard time finding another provider in town that can fit her in for her regular birth-control injections.
“I feel like [Republicans] have taken away my choice,” Rucinski said. “I’m still responsible for figuring this out, but they’ve made it harder for me to make a responsible choice.”
Another Burlington patient, Sara Robinson, 33, told me she has a primary-care doctor, but she goes to Planned Parenthood for pap smears and exams—and has been for 17 years. “I just feel super comfortable down there,” she said. “They were the ones that helped me when I was younger with birth control and showed me my options. There were times I didn’t have insurance, and that was my only option, too,” she said.