EL PASO, Texas – After providing services for 72 years, El Paso’s Planned Parenthoods has shut down virtually over night due to lack of funding.
Locally, Planned Parenthood (PP) first opened its doors in 1937, with founder, Margaret Sanger, making a visit to El Paso to deliver an opening speech. From its start in 1921, with its original name, American Birth Control League, PP has provided vital healthcare information to men, women, and young people all over the world.
It has been a place for affordable HIV/AIDS testing as well as a trusted source of prenatal and postnatal information and healthcare. For the last 90 years “PP has promoted a commonsense approach to women’s health and well-being, based on respect for each individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex, and family planning,” according to the Planned Parenthood website.
El Paso is a community deeply rooted in the Catholic Faith. Between 2000 and 2006 16,263 women between 15 and 19 gave birth, according to the County Health Rankings. Out of these women, 97% of them were Hispanic. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there were 1,045 El Paso women between the age 13 and 17 that got pregnant in 2006.
After serving El Paso for so long and being a self-proclaimed “passionate advocate,” questions remain as to why its doors are now shut. Although PP’s official stance is that the closure was do to economic reasons, there may or may not have been other forces at work, critics of it’s closing say.
Stop Planned Parenthood (STOPP) is a prolife organization whose goals are to keep PP out of classrooms, getting PP out of the community, and defeating federal and state public funding for PP. Although STOPP was unable to defeat public funding, they were able to deny it the El Paso community.
Much like The Last Abortion Clinic a Frontline special on protesters who eventually put all the abortion clinics in Mississippi out of business, members of STOPP also came and protested at PP’s locations in El Paso. According to Lifestyle News, Rita Diller, director of STOPP, is quoted as saying, “What happened to Planned Parenthood of El Paso is part of a larger trend… One by one, with hard work and prayer, these facilities are closing down, no matter how entrenched Planned Parenthood may seem to be in a particular community.”
So was it financial crisis, divine intervention, protest, or a combination of the three that made such a vital establishment to some close its doors?
El Paso’s PP debt rose from $380,623 in 2006 to $583,987 in 2007, according to GuideStar.org. Former PP CEO, Analinda Moreno, discontinued EL Paso’s PP AID/HIV services to save money, according to News Paper Tree (NPT).
Previous CEO, Marci Brooks stated that this was a mistake because it resulted in PP losing out in $1.2 million provided for Federally Qualified Health Center grants. Current CEO Moreno refused to provide clarification on this matter.
According to NPT, one former employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said that after Brooks left in April, Moreno and the three standing board members Bonnie Escobar, Lynn Salas and Carlos Cabada, turned Planned Parenthood of El Paso offices into a “vortex, where everything would go in and nothing would come out. No phone calls, no emails were ever responded to.”
None of these administrators were willing to answer questions regarding the matter.
According to the tax form 990, in 2006 the total liabilities were $699,478 and the net assets were $1,066,709. In just one year those numbers went to $932,886 and $1,023,785. With nobody saying anything and only official documents and newspapers as evidence, it may well be that a combination of poor management and financial problems were the ultimate reason for El Paso PP’s closure.
El Paso’s PP closures did not only come as a surprise to many reliant on their services. The closure also left more than 11,000 local women searching for alternate health care.
“I was shocked when I learned that Planned Parenthood had closed down,” said former patient, Julia Navaro, “I had just had an appointment a week before and they didn’t tell me anything… they even gave me a coupon for the next visit!”
People like Julia have had to turn to other organizations for affordable health care now but it wasn’t as easy as just changing doctors.
“I really didn’t know where else to turn to,” said Navaro, “and once I found help, I had to jump through hoops just to get my records transferred… it was an exhausting ordeal.”
“Making it so difficult for women to continue to receive the same treatment they did at PP is almost as bad as not providing it,” said Rebecca Gomez, a Tippin Elementary School Teacher.
“God forbid any of my students need assistance, but its not uncommon for my students’ parent’s to find themselves in this situation,” continued Gomez.
Again, this seems strangely familiar to The Last Abortion Clinic. If the activists cannot stop the practice all together, they will make it very difficult to access. Gomez adds that she has caught some of her third graders engaging in sexual acts and finds herself at a loss of words. “What do you tell these children? If the parents refuse to educate, and I’m not allowed to, then what happens?”
Along with the thousands of women left to fend for themselves, PP’s closure led to over 100 people searching for new jobs. Places like Project Vida and The La Fe Clinic, were already having trouble getting the funds to take in the influx of women, so hiring new employees proved even more difficult.
Erica Campos, former PP employee said, “ I would go into clinics to find work and see old colleagues in there trying to do the same thing.” “In these hard times being jobless is a horrible place to find yourself,” Campos continued.
It’s clear that the closure of El Paso’s PP disrupted the lives of many local people. Organizations like PP have proven themselves necessary in communities like El Paso, to not only prevent unexpected pregnancies, but to educate the public on how to protect oneself and make good decisions about reproductive health.