LINCOLN — Planned Parenthood has announced that it will expand its presence in Nebraska, even as it makes plans to serve nearly 8,000 patients without federal family planning funds.
The announcement comes more than a month after the Nebraska Legislature passed a budget that effectively barred Planned Parenthood from receiving federal family planning dollars known as Title X.
“We cannot be scared out of Nebraska,” said Meg Mikolajczyk, the new deputy state director. “We aren’t going anywhere.”
Andi Curry Grubb will be the new state executive director for Planned Parenthood in Nebraska.
Planned Parenthood serves about 8,000 of the 28,000 Title X patients in Nebraska. Earlier this month Planned Parenthood sent a letter to those patients telling them Title X is only part of their funding, and the clinics in Lincoln and Omaha are still open.
The letter said if patients used the Title X program to cover their costs, they might have to pay for part of the care out of pocket starting July 1, but patients might qualify for other discount programs. The organization said it would help patients get the services they need and cover the cost of care.
New restrictions to Title X passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Pete Ricketts effectively cut off the funds to Planned Parenthood because they require that an organization getting Title X dollars be separated legally, physically and financially from an organization providing abortions or making abortion referrals.
Mikolajczyk said the separation requirement is burdensome and unnecessary and work has not started to meet that requirement. She said donors have stepped up and Planned Parenthood is not concerned about being able to offer care.
Supporters of the separation, including Ricketts, said it ensures that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortion services.
Currently, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is a two-state affiliate overseen by a leadership team in Iowa. Now Nebraska will have its own leadership team and will join Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa in a regional affiliate.
Together, the states will be called Planned Parenthood North Central States and will manage 29 health centers serving more than 114,000 patients across the five states.
Suzanna de Baca, the current president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, will step down in September and will serve on the board of directors of the new affiliate.
Mikolajczyk and Curry Grubb said having leadership in Nebraska will allow the organization to focus on what Nebraska needs and build its political influence.
“We’re not backing down,” Curry Grubb said.
The organization is not eliminating any current health services, and the clinics in Omaha and Lincoln will stay open.
Curry Grubb and Mikolajczyk said the plans for the change in leadership have been in the works for a while and were not a direct response to the changes to the use of Title X funds.
Instead, both women said the changes come at a time when the organization’s mission and financing have been targeted.
Planned Parenthood’s announcement was met with skepticism from abortion opponents. Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, said her organization has developed grass-roots anti-abortion activists in every county while Planned Parenthood has relied on the courts to do its bidding.
“In a conservative political state, Planned Parenthood is not going to be able to build the same grass-roots structure that has outworked them politically and legislatively for decades,” she said.