FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Planned Parenthood closed its health center in Indiana's second-largest city Monday, blaming what it called years of growing intimidation and harassment of the center's staff by supporters of anti-abortion groups.
The Fort Wayne health center provided birth control options, sexually transmitted disease testing and early diagnosis of cervical, testicular and breast cancer, said Christie Gillespie, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. The facility did not perform abortion procedures.
A sign on the clinic's door Monday said it is permanently closed and directed patients to Planned Parenthood sites in Elkhart and Mishawaka, both cities roughly a two-hour drive north of Fort Wayne.
Gillespie said the closure means the Fort Wayne area has lost a trusted health care provider. She said she's "pretty angry" about the intimidation and harassment, which she said goes far beyond picketing outside of the health center, and she attributed it to supporters of Allen County Right to Life and other regional groups that oppose abortion.
Cathie Humbarger, the executive director of Allen County Right to Life, told WANE-TV the group doesn't "practice or condone intimidation."
But Humbarger and Indiana Right to Life president and CEO Mike Fichter said in a joint statement that they were "pleased" by the center's closure, attributing it to a dwindling customer base and what they called the center's growing unpopularity in the Fort Wayne area.
"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," Humbarger and Fichter said in their statement.
Gillespie said the health center, which had four employees, saw 1,500 unduplicated patients during last fiscal year — about half of the nearly 3,000 patients it had two years ago. She said the numbers have fallen due to the harassment of staff and the difficulty of recruiting providers to work there.
"This has nothing to do with demand or finances," she told The Journal Gazette. "Our closing is solely because of intimidation and harassment of patients, supporters and providers."
Planned Parenthood provided copies of a mailer it said was sent to Fort Wayne neighborhoods that included the name, photograph and home address of a Planned Parenthood nurse practitioner, with the message, "there are killers among us."
The group responsible for the mailers, Created Equal of Ohio, also sent the woman a letter saying it had "launched a campaign to expose the role you" play in enabling abortions, Planned Parenthood said. That letter said the nurse counsels women to get an abortion at larger Planned Parenthood facilities and said the campaign against her would stop if she quit her job.
"We've had providers that have been told that their life would be unlivable in Fort Wayne if they worked for us," Gillespie said. "This is not how decent and compassionate people behave."