Agency Exploring Offering Abortions Loses Lease
WILKES-BARRE — The Kirby Health Center Board informed Planned Parenthood it would not renew its lease after officials from the family planning agency told the board it was exploring offering abortions at the Wilkes-Barre location.
Planned Parenthood received a letter from the board stating its lease would not be renewed at the end of this year after being located in the annex building at 63 N. Franklin St. next to the Angeline Elizabeth Kirby Memorial Health Center for 84 years.
“We informed the board that we were exploring adding safe, legal abortion services to the suite of options available at the Wilkes-Barre health center because there is a growing need for this reproductive care regionally,” Casey Roncoroni, senior director of development for Planned Parenthood Keystone, said in an email.
Roncoroni said the Kirby Health Center board never responded to their presentation.
Instead, the staff at Planned Parenthood received a letter stating its lease would not be renewed, she said.
“We have no idea why the Kirby Health Center board ended our lease after more than eight decades,” Roncoroni said.
The Wilkes-Barre Planned Parenthood refers women seeking abortions to the closest provider in Allentown, which is more than 60 miles away, she said.
Efforts to reach attorney Brian Caverly, vice president of the Kirby Health Center Board, were not successful Thursday.
When previously asked about why Planned Parenthood’s lease was not renewed in Wilkes-Barre, he responded, “All I can tell you is we are simply exercising the legal rights we have under the lease and under the circumstances.”
Roncoroni said Planned Parenthood is searching for a new location in Wilkes-Barre where services are needed but nothing has been finalized.
She said any future determination about offering abortions “will be made only after we secure a new location.”
Planned Parenthood is regulated by the state Department of Health and has not applied for a license to provide abortions, she said.
“We will notify them about the change in location once relocation is finalized,” she said. “Our priority is making sure our patients in the community have uninterrupted access to the basic reproductive health care services they’ve been receiving there for decades. That is our singular focus right now — keeping the doors of Planned Parenthood open for those who rely on us.”
Other services Planned Parenthood provides include birth control, HIV testing, LGBT services, women’s and men’s health care, the morning after pill, pregnancy testing and services, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, testing and treat for urinary tract infections and vaccines, according to its website.
Planned Parenthood Keystone serves 37 counties in Pennsylvania and operates nine medical centers that serve more than 26,000 patients annually, according to its website. Luzerne County is one of the counties served.
Betty Caffrey, president of the pro-life organization Pennsylvanians for Human Life Wyoming Valley Chapter, said if Planned Parenthood is still looking to do abortions in Wilkes-Barre, “we will do everything we can to keep them out.”
Caffrey said Pennsylvanians for Human Life has previously prevented a doctor from opening an abortion clinic in Wilkes-Barre by gathering more than 103,000 signatures on a petition and holding rallies. She calls abortion clinics “killing centers.”
She said Pennsylvanians for Human Life has been in Wilkes-Barre for 31 years and will continue to offer help for girls and women at its office at 31 Hanover St. Its services are free.
“You can come to us for help,” she said. “You don’t have to kill your baby. We never had one girl ever in 31 years who was sorry she had a baby.”
“We will monitor wherever they go and do what we did before. We will let realtors know that they’re looking for a place for a killing center,” she said. “If they are going to do surgical abortions, the people in the city have to be up in arms about it. I don’t know any doctors in this area who will perform them.”
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there are 17 facilities in Pennsylvania that do abortions. In addition to Planned Parenthood locations in Allentown, Harrisburg, Reading, Warminster, York, Pittsburgh and Norristown, there also are abortion facilities in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Pittsburgh, Chester and West Chester.
U.S. President Donald Trump recently said he wants to make it nearly impossible for health insurance plans in the Affordable Care Act to cover abortions.
Trump’s administration also has been trying to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
Caffrey said she believes Planned Parenthood wants to offer abortions in Wilkes-Barre because they are “going to be losing funds.” The cost of an abortion is at least $400, she said.
“What’s the biggest way they can make lots of money in a hurry?” she asked.
Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women, said in a statement that her organization and its members will continue defending “a woman’s right to make her own choice about health care.”
“Together, we will continue demanding protections for women that include universal access to affordable health insurance coverage, broadly available sex education for middle and secondary school students, access to reproductive health care services for all girls and women, affordable insurance coverage for contraception and safe, legal abortion,” she said in a statement.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org, 570-821-2115, @CVAllabaugh