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PPINK office closes in Fort Wayne citing intimidation, harassment

By KEVIN KILBANE - News-Sentinel

The Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) office in Fort Wayne closed permanently today, and the organization blames the decision on “intimidation and harassment of PPINK patients, providers and supporters led by Allen County Right to Life (ACRL) in the Fort Wayne community.”

But PPINK also vows it will be back in Fort Wayne.

“Our intent is to be back sooner rather than later,” said Christie Gillespie, PPINK president and CEO.

Gillespie said she didn’t want to provide any details about those plans because of past efforts by Allen County Right to Life to oppose Planned Parenthood’s operation here.

“Planned Parenthood has been in the Fort Wayne community providing high-quality health care for 81 years, and our patients, providers and supporters have been harassed and attacked in the community where they live and should feel safe,” Gillespie said earlier today in a statement released by PPINK. “I am putting Allen County Right to Life, and all anti-women’s groups, on notice: You have intimidated and harassed us for the last time in this community. We will be back, stronger than ever before. Because our supporters know that we provide life-saving, high-quality health care to the thousands of Hoosiers in the Fort Wayne community. No matter what.”

Planned Parenthood’s Fort Wayne office is located in the Parkwest shopping center at Jefferson Boulevard and Illinois Road.

People supporting the organization’s mission planned to hold a rally there at 6 p.m. today, Gillespie said.

A sign on the door this morning said the health center is closed permanently. The sign directs people to visit Planned Parenthood locations in Elkhart and Mishawaka, or to call 1-800-230-PLAN or go to ppink.com for more information.

The Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health also offered to help.

The health department “continues to provide sexually transmitted infection/disease (STD/STI) testing and treatment, vaccines, HIV testing, as well as pregnancy testing on a daily basis,” Administrator Mindy Waldron said in an email reply to questions from News-Sentinel.com. “We are certainly willing to assist folks with these services in the wake of Planned Parenthood’s recently announced closure.”

For information on scheduling an appointment and associated costs, please click here or call 1-260-449-7504.”

Planned Parenthood provided women’s and men’s health exams and other services at the Fort Wayne office, but not abortions, spokeswoman Ali Slocum said.

News-Sentinel.com’s Kevin Leininger reported in August 2017 that Planned Parenthood was on a month-to-month lease at the Parkwest location. At that time, an agent for shopping center leasing agent The Bradley Co. said Planned Parenthood no longer was a good fit for that location because the center was trying to bring in more retail tenants.

The Parkwest shopping center landlord notified Planned Parenthood last week that its month-to-month lease wouldn’t be renewed, meaning the health center must vacate its space by July 31, Gillespie said.

Planned Parenthood has been looking for a new location for the past year, but some its efforts have been derailed by Allen County Right to Life, she said.

Four people worked at the local Planned Parenthood office, and they were notified today they were losing their jobs in 30 days, Gillespie said. Those employees will be involved in packing up the health center and getting the location ready for its new tenant, she said.

After learning of the closing, Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter and Allen County Right to Life Executive Director Cathie Humbarger issued this joint statement today:

“We are pleased to see Indiana’s largest abortion business, Planned Parenthood, is closing its doors in Fort Wayne,” the statement said. “We believe Planned Parenthood’s closure is due to its dwindling customer base in Indiana and its unpopularity in the greater Fort Wayne community. Planned Parenthood’s accusation that intimidation by Right to Life led to this closure is simply untrue and smacks of an attempt by Planned Parenthood to turn its business woes into a fundraiser.

“According to Planned Parenthood’s own reports, unduplicated patient visits are down 46 percent over the last 10 years while total patient visits are down 67 percent over the same time period,” the release said.

Planned Parenthood does operate four of the six health centers in Indiana that provide abortions, Gillespie said. Those PPINK centers are located in Merrillville, Lafayette (medication abortion only), Indianapolis and Bloomington, she said.

They are among 16 health centers Planned Parenthood now operates throughout the state, which serve about 50,000 patients a year, she said.

Gillespie disputed the claim by Indiana Right to Life and Allen County Right to Life that declining patient numbers contributed to the closure of the Fort Wayne location.

The number of patients seen at the Fort Wayne health center declined by about half in the past two or three years because right-to-life advocates launched an intimidation and harassment campaign against the center’s nurse practitioner, Gillespie said. The woman resigned out of fear, and it took awhile for PPINK to recruit a new person to fill the vacancy, she added.

“The decrease in patients didn’t have anything to do with anything but that,” Gillespie said.