A Planned Parenthood clinic in Tennessee sits idle in anticipation of both patients and protesters. PHOTO COURTESY OF WKRN
The last four months have been a contentious time for people, especially those of reproductive age, throughout the United States. Since the Politico leaked draft in May and the overturning of Roe V. Wade just over a month later, people of all ages and backgrounds expressed concern and stress regarding reproductive rights and abortion access in America.
Although abortion remains legal in Pennsylvania, tensions continue to rise with potential pro-life candidates Doug Mastriano and Mehmet Oz on the ballot for state governor and senator, respectively. Abortion and reproductive rights advocates fear that access to such forms of healthcare and services might be banned depending on who is elected to office in November. The tides now rise in our own backyard, with a Planned Parenthood clinic returning to Lancaster before the end of September.
The clinic, previously located at 31 S. Lime Street, operated by the regional affiliate Planned Parenthood Keystone, served downtown Lancaster and the surrounding community from the 1970s until it closed in the spring of 2020, after facing financial issues amidst the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Planned Parenthood announced their plans to reopen the clinic at 902 Manor Street in May, just days after a leaked draft hinted at the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark decision of Roe V. Wade. The Lancaster clinic, now ready for its grand reopening, already experienced its fair share of pro-life protesters. Ironically, however, the clinic does not perform abortions, and it never has.
Planned Parenthood, now synonymous with abortion in the eyes of the pro-life movement, is not a stranger to protests or backlash, especially the South Lime Street location. Lancaster, a blue island in a sea of deep red conservative towns and rural communities, almost appears to be the perfect safe haven for people seeking discrete and judgment-free care. However, a region politically structured as such also serves as a perfect battleground for the fight on abortion. Since its initial opening nearly half a century ago, the Lime Street location has been repeatedly bombarded with protestors and angry anti-abortion activists. From 2017 until around the time the clinic closed, one could see an old man in a tan coat holding an anti-abortion sign if they searched the clinic on Google Earth. The man’s face, as well as the sign, have been blurred in recent Google updates. In 1993, the Lancaster clinic also fell victim to a bombing, which remains unsolved.
The Lancaster clinic offers a wide variety of reproductive healthcare services to clients, including cancer screenings, gynecological exams, STI testing and treatment, and pregnancy tests – but not abortions. While patients may be tested for pregnancy and receive resources and referrals for nearby locations that do offer such services, such as the clinics in York or Harrisburg, they will not be able to terminate the pregnancy on site. Despite this, however, protesters continue to set up camp outside the clinic, harassing vulnerable patients and passersby.
Not only do these protestors drive away potential clients, but they also shame and deprive people of the services they need. The person scolded or yelled at for entering or leaving the clinic could be a man suspecting he has a life-threatening form of prostate cancer, or a teenage girl getting tested for chlamydia or HIV after a scare from her partner. Planned Parenthood also receives private funding from donors and organizations, making their clinics the best or only option for individuals who otherwise would not be able to afford or access reproductive healthcare. In the case of the Lancaster clinic, their services are not ending lives, but rather saving them.
For those who may be concerned that their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are funding abortions, they need not worry, as this is not the case. Under the Hyde Amendment, a federal law in effect since 1980, abortions cannot be funded through the federal government or taxpayer money. Instead, such services are paid for by the client’s insurance, out of pocket, or by benefactor-endowed abortion funds. Moreover, the funding that organizations such as Planned Parenthood do receive goes towards cancer screenings, STI testing, and LGBTQ+ resources – services that undoubtedly save and improve the lives of the community.
Regardless of one’s views on abortion, it should be common sense to want everyone to have access to crucial reproductive healthcare and sex education resources. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood Lancaster seek to make this possible even for the area’s most vulnerable population, including college students, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community.
“We believe in non-judgmental care,” states Planned Parenthood Keystone on their website, “our Mission is to provide and promote access to the essential reproductive healthcare services and comprehensive sexuality education people need to live healthy lives and build strong communities … we trust our patients to know what is right for themselves and their families — that’s why we provide unbiased information in a non-judgmental and compassionate way.”
Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, it is important to be educated and informed on issues and organizations related to reproductive services, as misinformation and a herd mentality can lead to more harm than good. If someone genuinely cares about choosing life for a child, they would understand and support life-saving services and organizations and not want them to be defunded. Those interested in scheduling an appointment or learning more about Planned Parenthood and the resources offered at the Lancaster clinic are encouraged to call the Planned Parenthood hotline at 1-800-230-7256 or check out their website. Services may be conducted in person or via Telehealth. Volunteer escorts and Spanish-language translators may also be provided.