(Orange City, IA) Thursday night Sioux County Democrats hosted a conversation with three representatives from Planned Parenthood of Iowa Voters PAC. About 30 people showed up, though the crowd seemed mixed with pro-life supporters as well as abortion supporters. It was likely a 2-to-1 breakdown of those who supported Planned Parenthood and those who were seemingly against the nation’s largest abortion provider.
Rachel Lopez, PR manager for Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa, noted she had never been to Orange City before.
“I didn’t even know there was an Orange City,” she said.
That’s probably because Orange City is part of Sioux County, which is a heavily Republican area of the state. Donald Trump received 82.1 percent of votes compared to Hillary Clinton’s 12.7 percent.
Lopez noted Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has served patients since the 1930s. In fiscal year 2016 the organization served more than 33,000 people in Iowa, with more than 50 percent of the patients being low-income.
Services included were routine Pap tests, cancer screenings, screenings for Sexually Transmitted Diseases and — as Lopez said — so forth. She also highlighted Planned Parenthood’s care for the LGBTQ community.
Kirsten Colt, an educator for Planned Parenthood of Iowa Voters, said there are 20 educators who go into schools, religious groups and various community organizations.
“Education starts at the age of three, four, five years old,” Colt said. “We’re also doing some work in nursing homes.”
Colt offered a story that some thought was funny where an educator helped teach an 82-year old woman how to properly use a condom.
“Sex education is something that is with us from a very young age until the end of life,” she said. “Seventy-five percent (of students) are 18 and younger.”
She stressed Planned Parenthood educators focus on facts and do not allow personal opinion. Though it’s unlikely any factual information about when life begins is discussed.
Erin Davison-Rippey, director of public affairs, explained the political advocacy part of the group.
Davison-Rippey criticized Iowa legislators working to defund Planned Parenthood. She cited the budget shortfall as a reason to continue funding the abortion provider.
“(Senate File 2) will reject all of this federal money coming in. It’s a little more than $3 million in federal funding,” Davison-Rippey said. “Which I think is a lot of money. The governor has said and they’ve finally confirmed the way they would (make up those dollars) is take funds from programs that support young people, vulnerable youth, kids in foster care. There are just so many reasons that’s not smart from a money standpoint.”
She noted the difficulty women face in securing an OB/GYN appointment. They also cited a lack of providers willing to accept Medicaid patients.
However, when the question-and-answer portion started, an attendee asked which communities would be impacted and don’t have providers who accept Medicaid.
“Great question,” Lopez said. “I can’t answer for you right now.”
Another attendee asked if reproductive health is the focus of Planned Parenthood, why is it “educating” three-year olds.
“The reason it starts at such a young age is to protect the children,” Colt said. “They are really vulnerable at that age to sexual predators.”
The individual asked if child molestation incidents had increased in Iowa and if that’s justification for Planned Parenthood “educators” talking with three-year olds, but Colt noted she did not know if it was worse than it’s ever been.
Planned Parenthood representatives encouraged those in attended to Google the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion — except in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother.
Another audience member asked if it is compassion that drives the education program for three-year olds where is that same compassion for children who are unborn. And, if the tax dollars are so important to the organization, why not quit performing abortions.
“Women have all kinds of reasons for deciding to have (an abortion),” Lopez said. “There are a lot of circumstances that lead to that decision. At the heart of Planned Parenthood is our mission to serve all people in their reproductive health choices. It’s not about moralizing or deciding what’s right for a woman or what’s not right.”
As for the reason Planned Parenthood refuses to just stop performing abortions, the possibility of back-alley abortions were the logic.
Lopez said she did not have information regarding how many women refuse abortions after being shown an ultrasound of their child. She also claimed that Planned Parenthood had been cleared of any potential wrongdoing caught on camera when the organization was exposed for trying to sell aborted baby parts.
Lopez noted there are regulations for how health organizations dispose of “medical waste.”
At one point a member of the audience noted the number of hospitals in Sioux County that do accept Medicaid patients.
Lopez said those community hospitals may be accepting those with MedicAid, but it doesn’t mean they offer the same expert sexual and reproductive health.
Kayleen Lee, the CEO of the Sioux Center Hospital, allowed that contention to go completely unchallenged.
Though there was one tense exchange, conversation remained civil. Toward the end the Planned Parenthood of Iowa Voters representatives were asked if they believed performing an abortion is compassionate and nonjudgmental.
Lopez offered a quick, one-word answer:
One senior member of the audience got up and left, saying he couldn’t stand the talk any more.