In an era marked by high unemployment, economic instability, and deep cuts in public funding for health services, Planned Parenthood clinics provide an increasingly important safety net for uninsured and low-income clients in need of birth control, screenings for sexually transmitted disease or cervical cancer, abortion services, or information on sexual health that isn't manipulated by a pro-life agenda. As things stand, women in rural communities seeking abortions often must travel very long distances to clinics, and any gap in services resulting from a PPGG accreditation loss could further broaden those geographical boundaries.
Since financial problems are at the root of the San Francisco-based affiliate's problems, the PPGG clinics — which are located in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Sonoma, Marin, and Mendocino counties — are in an especially precarious position without national support, despite operating as a separate entity from PPFA. Planned Parenthood affiliates Mar Monte and Shasta Diablo plan to take over some of the existing clinics or cover gaps in service area by opening satellite centers, Toledo told us. "It's unusual to have a disaffiliation," she said. "But it's not unusual for national committees to have a reallocation of service area. That part is well practiced." She added that "every effort possible will be made" to ensure continuity of care.
The Mar Monte affiliate operates clinics in the Central Valley, Sacramento, the Sierra region, the San Joaquin Valley, and Silicon Valley. The Shasta Diablo affiliate covers areas in Butte, Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Shasta, and Solano counties, with locations in El Cerrito and Walnut Creek. Depending on clients' starting points, travel times could lengthen considerably and waiting rooms could become more crowded if the current PPGG clinics can't stay afloat.
It's too early to say just how PPGG staff members and patients will be affected by the loss of accreditation. However, it became obvious from Guardian interviews and more than two dozen Web comments on the Guardian's online coverage of PPGG management woes that there was a high level of employee discontent at PPGG. Former staffers even keep in touch through a sort of club titled "PPGG PTSD" — a humorous reference to being shaken by the experience of working there. Yet while many were angered by the affiliate's administrative problems, they nonetheless remain dedicated to the mission of Planned Parenthood.
"I'm a senior citizen who hasn't needed birth control in quite some time, yet I remember when I was a young woman without resources who depended on PPGG for basic health care," noted "Ellen," a commenter. "They provide more than just reproductive services. They found an early cervical cancer, and I'm alive today as a result of the early diagnosis that they provided.
"It's a tragedy that the current and recent trustees and management ruined such a fine organization," she continued. "A friend of mine is a talented and dedicated nurse with a background of serving low-income women. She resigned from PPGG a year ago because she couldn't handle the mismanagement any longer. I hope one of the nearby chapters is able to take over the PPGG clinics. In any case, current PPGG management and trustees need to go."