Albert Lea’s Planned Parenthood closing Aug. 1

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

After more than 40 years of operation in Albert Lea, Planned Parenthood announced this week it will close its local doors effective Aug. 1.

The closure comes because of cuts to the nation’s family planning funding program, which have forced the organization to consolidate its clinical services.

In addition to the Albert Lea location, clinics will also close in Thief River Falls, Brainerd, Red Wing, Owatonna and Fairmont. The closest clinic for Albert Lea residents will now be in Rochester or Mankato.

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“We proudly served these communities for 40 years, and the decision to close our doors is heartbreaking,” said Planned Parenthood President and CEO Sarah Stoesz. “We know that both state and federal governments are struggling to balance their budgets, but we also know that public funding for family planning services is a cost-saving and vital service for tens of thousands of women in our state, especially in rural areas. This was a short-sighted blow to a much-needed program.”

She said many people have come to her outraged about the cuts and have asked what they can do to make things different.

“We’re at a real crisis point in this country,” Stoesz said.

The Title X program, which has provided the funding, was signed into law in 1970 by President Richard Nixon. It provides low-income women with services including birth control, annual gynecological exams, sexually transmitted infections testing and treatment, and cervical and breast cancer screenings.

The local office also provided pregnancy testing and counseling and referrals for adoption, abortion and prenatal care, along with general health care services such as cholesterol and diabetes screening.

In Minnesota, more than 250,000 women are in need of subsidized reproductive health care, according to a Planned Parenthood news release.

Stoesz said because of the clinic closures, it is likely there will be an increase in teen pregnancies and unintended pregnancies, along with an increase in abortion rates.

“There’s no question about that,” she said.

While there will be increased staff and longer working hours at the Planned Parenthood clinics in Rochester and Mankato to accommodate additional patients, transportation could be a problem for some, Stoesz said.

“It’s not the same as having a physical presence in these communities,” she said. “That’s just wrong.”

Freeborn County Director of Public Health Sue Yost said she is concerned.

“We’re not going to have the resources,” she said. “Hopefully we won’t see the numbers go up.”

Yost said historically, Freeborn County’s rate of teen pregnancies has been high compared to state averages.

“It’s definitely going to be an issue, especially for low-income people who use the service,” she said.