KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Planned Parenthood quietly opened a new abortion clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, this summer, a location that didn’t draw much attention until after Kansans affirmed the right to an abortion with Tuesday’s historic vote.
The new health center at 60th Street and Leavenworth Road opened June 28, shortly after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, said spokeswoman Anamarie Rebori Simmons. Missouri and Oklahoma both enacted trigger bans in the wake of the ruling.
Planned Parenthood began planning the Wyandotte County location in 2019, Simmons.
Beset by construction delays, it opened with little fanfare and is operating on shorter hours while staff is still being hired, Simmons said.
“We recognize while Tuesday night’s overwhelming response from Kansans indicated that access to abortion could be protected across the state, we recognized the need for additional care, both sexual and reproductive health and primary care, in Kansas City, Kansas, long before Tuesday and the Supreme Court decision,” said Simmons.
“This was an important next step for us in terms of ensuring access to care. But the need was recognized long before Tuesday.”
Before this clinic opened, Kansas had four centers that provided abortions: two in Overland Park and two in Wichita.
“What we know as a provider of health services, when care is not available at the local level, it’s not truly accessible,” Emily Wales, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said Wednesday. “Many patients can figure out how to get across state lines.”
But for some, the trip is complicated by the cost of traveling and coordinating it with child care. And for those patients, “they will not access care. So we are committed to providing it over the four states we serve.”
The proposed constitutional amendment would have paved the way for the state Legislature to further restrict or ban abortion in the state.
Anti-abortion activists campaigning for the amendment had argued Kansas’ constitutional right to abortion would make the state a destination for the procedure.
In a statement, Jeanne Gawdun, a spokeswoman for Kansans for Life, pointed to the clinic as confirmation.
“For months we have been telling the public that Kansas was set up as a destination for abortion. It’s sad that the media waited for so long to cover this as women and babies in our state are the ones who will suffer the consequences,” Gawdun said in an email.
“We expect this to be the first in a long line of heartbreaking confirmations that Kansans were purposely misled by the abortion industry and its allies about the consequences of passage or defeat of the Value Them Both Amendment.”
Providers, including Planned Parenthood, told The Kansas City Star last month they received increased calls from out-of-state women but could not meet the demand. Kansas’ limited number of clinics, combined with restrictive laws on abortion, meant more patients sought care in New Mexico, Illinois and Colorado, they said.
According to Planned Parenthood’s website, the Wyandotte Health Center of Kansas City, Kansas, provides services including abortion, birth control, HIV services, pregnancy testing and services and women’s and men’s health care.
It is the first such clinic to operate in Wyandotte County since Aid for Women closed in 2014.
The clinic had been rumored. In April anti-abortion activists held a protest at the site and at the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic six blocks away, according to Wyandotte Daily.
Simmons said the protests were part of the reason the opening was not widely publicized.
When it chooses clinic locations, Planned Parenthood considers the number of health care providers already in a community, Simmons said.
That area of Wyandotte County “was identified as a community where there could be a need for additional providers,” she said.
Since 2018, the only abortion clinics in the Kansas City area were the Planned Parenthood in Overland Park and the Overland Park Center for Women’s Health.
Even before Missouri banned most abortions in June, Missouri women were coming to Kansas for abortions. In 2021, 44% of abortions in Kansas were for Missouri residents. For at least five years, more than 40% of Kansas’ abortions were performed for Missouri patients.
Kansas abortion clinics were flooded with calls after Roe v. Wade was overturned but could not meet the demand.
Simmons said Planned Parenthood is “always looking at ways to expand access where we can.” But right now, fresh off of Tuesday’s win, everyone is taking a quick breath before considering the future.
Wales said abortion care in this part of the country was already regional before Roe v. Wade was struck down. “We didn’t have enough providers in the Midwest and South, so patients were often looking across state lines,” she said.
In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision, the health centers in the Great Plains system fielded twice as many calls as they usually do, she said, calls from Texas, too, “as people were scrambling.”
“At the end of the day, Kansas still only has five” abortion clinics, she said.
Trust Women, a clinic in Wichita, recently finished renovations aimed at expanding their capacity.
In a statement after the vote Tuesday, the clinic indicated plans to expand access across the state. The clinic is currently engaged in a lawsuit that seeks to strike down Kansas’ prohibition on telemedicine abortions.
“Our priority in the coming months and years will include continuing to provide high-quality abortion care for Kansans and pregnant people across the region, as well as organizing and legislative work to expand and restore meaningful access to local abortions for all Kansans,” the statement said.©2022 The Kansas City Star. Visit kansascity.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.