At A Virginia Planned Parenthood Clinic, Practitioners Worry For Their Patients

Jan 19, 2017
Originally published on January 19, 2017 11:07 pm

All Things Considered co-host Ari Shapiro is on a road trip leading up to the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20. He is driving through North Carolina and Virginia, on the way to Washington, D.C. These are two swing states that went in opposite directions in November, each by a close margin: North Carolina for Trump; Virginia, for Hillary Clinton. As the country faces dramatic changes, we're asking people what they want from that change — and what concerns them.

From her desk in Roanoke, Va., Patrice Campbell books appointments for the 15 Planned Parenthood clinics across the region.

Right after the election, she noticed a huge increase in calls, many of them asking for the same thing.

"We've seen where a lot of patients — I would say maybe 50 to 70 percent of patients — [are] eager to get in for long-term contraceptives," Campbell says. "So their focus is, I need to get an IUD before Jan. 20 because an IUD can last for five, even 10 years."

Jan. 20, of course, is Inauguration Day.

Anne Logan Bass has been a clinician at this Planned Parenthood clinic for eight years.

She says the election was tough for the entire staff.

"My mother actually called me, and she was asking how things were going, and I said, 'Mom it's just, we're all crying,' and she said, 'Is everyone worried they're going to lose their job?' and I said, 'No, everyone is so worried about our patients,' " Bass says.

For years, Republicans have tried to end federal funding that gets routed to Planned Parenthood, and they plan to try again after Donald Trump is in office.

They object to the fact that the organization provides abortions among other health care services — even though federal funds do not cover abortion services.

This clinic in Roanoke treats about 2,800 patients a year.

Nationally, Planned Parenthood says it treats 2.5 million patients a year, and abortions make up 3 percent of the services.

At the Sweet Donkey coffee shop in central Roanoke, Laura Rodriguez drinks tea while her 2-month-old baby girl stares wide-eyed at the world.

Rodriguez describes herself as lower middle class, working as a waitress.

She has no health insurance.

"I'm not a big fan of Planned Parenthood. I went there before for health issues, and they were extremely overpriced. I had to pay out of pocket, a lot of money," Rodriguez says.

Planned Parenthood says it uses a sliding scale for fees based on a patient's annual income.

Sarah Law — a registered nurse — sits in another corner of the cafe.

"I'm pretty conservative myself, and as far as abortions go, that's a different subject. But as far as women's health and Planned Parenthood, I think that does a lot of wonderful things for women that don't have the means to get proper care that they need," Law says.

In other words, even though Law is opposed to abortions, she thinks Planned Parenthood provides important services. To her, the argument that the only way to limit abortions is to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood "doesn't make any sense."

Figures released this week show that the U.S. abortion rate is at its lowest level since Roe v. Wade.

And Law fears that without easy access to contraception, those numbers could go back up.

As for Bass of Planned Parenthood, her hope for the next four years is to see more patients and increase access. Her greatest fear? "That misinformation and inaccurate, unreliable information is going to continue to make our job hard."

Use the audio link above to hear the full story.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This week, we've been hearing from people whose lives may change under a Donald Trump presidency. My co-host Ari Shapiro is talking with them as he drives through North Carolina and Virginia on his way to the inauguration. Today's stop - Roanoke, Va., and a visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Roanoke is a one-story brick building off a busy street. The Blue Ridge Mountains float on the horizon. Once a receptionist buzzes you in, a waiting room has coloring books for patients and their kids. In a room on the other side of the building, women sit in cubicles and answer the phone.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Are you having any symptoms, Sir, or did you...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Yes, it is.

SHAPIRO: Patrice Campbell works here, booking appointments for 15 Planned Parenthood clinics across the region. Right after the election, she noticed a huge increase in calls, many of them asking for the same thing.

PATRICE CAMPBELL: We've seen where a lot of patients - I would say maybe 50 to 70 percent of patients eager to get in for long-term contraceptive, which we call LARCs. So their focus is, I need to get an IUD before January 20 because, you know, an IUD can last for five or even 10 years.

SHAPIRO: January 20 - Inauguration Day - Anne Logan Bass has been a clinician here for eight years. She says for the entire staff, the election was tough.

ANNE LOGAN BASS: My mother actually called me, and she was asking how things were going. And I said, Mom, it's just - we're just - we're all crying. And she said, is everyone worried they're going to lose their job? Like, no, everyone is so worried about our patients.

SHAPIRO: For years, Republicans have tried to end federal funding that gets routed to Planned Parenthood. They object to the fact that the organization provides abortions among other health care services. This clinic in Roanoke treats about 2,800 patients a year. Nationally, Planned Parenthood says it treats 2 and a half million patients a year, and abortions make up 3 percent of the services.

(CROSSTALK)

SHAPIRO: At the Sweet Donkey coffee shop in central Roanoke, Laura Rodriguez drinks tea while her 2-month-old baby girl stares wide-eyed at the world. Rodriguez describes herself as lower-middle-class, working as a waitress. She has no health insurance.

LAURA RODRIGUEZ: I'm not a big fan of Planned Parenthood. I went there before for health issues, and they were extremely overpriced. I had to pay out of pocket a lot of money.

SHAPIRO: Planned Parenthood says it uses a sliding scale for fees based on a patient's annual income. In another corner of the cafe, Sarah Law is meeting a friend for coffee. She's a registered nurse.

SARAH LAW: So I'm pretty conservative myself, and as far as abortions go, that's a different subject. But as far as women's health and Planned Parenthood, I think that does a lot of wonderful things for women that don't have the means to get proper care that they need.

SHAPIRO: So if I'm interpreting what you're saying correctly, you don't support abortions, but you do think Planned Parenthood does some good stuff.

LAW: Absolutely.

SHAPIRO: So how do you feel about that people who say, well, the only way to limit abortions is to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood?

LAW: It doesn't make any sense to do that.

SHAPIRO: Figures out this week show the U.S. abortion rate is at its lowest level since Roe versus Wade, and Sarah Law fears that without easy access to contraception, those numbers could go back up.

On this road trip, we've been asking everyone what their hopes and fears are for the next four years. So at the clinic, I ask Anne Logan Bass about her hopes and fears.

BASS: I hope that we can continue to see more people, increase access. I fear that misinformation and inaccurate, unreliable information is going to continue to make our job hard.

SHAPIRO: I mean you talk about misinformation, but isn't there really an ideological divide here?

BASS: Well, the ideological belief about abortion I think is separate from the whole defunding conversation because federal funds don't cover abortion services.

SHAPIRO: While that's true, conservative lawmakers argue that money can be moved around. Congress has passed a bill stripping funding for Planned Parenthood before, and President Obama has always vetoed them. Next week, after Donald Trump is in office, Congress plans to vote on such a measure once again.

SIEGEL: That's my co-host Ari Shapiro reporting from Roanoke, Va. Tomorrow, Ari arrives back in Washington, D.C., with college students who are traveling to see Donald Trump take the oath of office. NPR's Steve Inskeep and Audie Cornish will be out there, too, and you can hear there live coverage of the event. You can also watch as NPR footnotes the inaugural address as it happens at npr.org.

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