In a last-minute move, a Texas judge blocked the state from kicking Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid—giving temporary relief to thousands of low-income patients who rely on the healthcare provider. It’s one of many obstacles Planned Parenthood has faced since reopening the only clinic in Lubbock. While the new clinic has faced backlash from abortion rights opponents, others say it fills health care gaps in the region.
On the first snow last fall in Lubbock, Shelley Woodbridge risked the icy roads to make it to the new Planned Parenthood clinic. She was their very first patient on their opening day. The single mother of three is a self-employed realtor. She hadn’t been to a doctor since she was last pregnant—which was over three years ago.
“I love what I do,” Woodbridge said, “But it does not come with insurance.” Her children are insured, but she is not. “I think that that’s kind of the typical mom lifestyle…We put ourselves last.”
She was up late one night on the computer when she came across a post about Planned Parenthood scheduling appointments and immediately booked herself a wellness check for the following Monday. It included a pap smear, breast exam and any other necessary testing she hadn’t had in years.
Without insurance, she says a visit like that would have cost her $700 out of pocket. “Typically, self-pay has worked well for me,” she said. “But when it comes to preventative care, I don’t have that luxury.” However, with the opening of the new clinic, she has that luxury now. The cost of care at Planned Parenthood is determined on a sliding scale. So, Shelley’s visit wound up being free.
When the nurse came in to deliver the news, Woodbridge broke down in tears. “I’m not an emotional person, but it was just so relieving to know that I’m taking care of myself and I’m going to financially be okay.”
Over 15% of Lubbock residents are uninsured. That figure is over twice as high in some surrounding areas. When the clinic closed in 2013, Angela Martinez knew they’d be leaving a gap in healthcare. “It was really hard closing that clinic,” Martinez recalled. “It’s been really nice opening up and seeing people who may not have been seen for years.”
Martinez is the executive director of the clinic, and this time around, operating the clinic feels different. For one thing, COVID-19 has sparked the need for a number of safety measures—like consistent cleaning and spacing out appointments to avoid potential exposures. Still, Martinez says they’ve been able to see up to 18 patients a day between the in-person visits and telehealth appointments.
Social media has also been a big difference in their operation. According to Martinez, now they’re able to utilize the different online platforms to disseminate information to clients. They’ve also been able to tap into their supporters. “Seeing the support that Planned Parenthood has in Lubbock is really nice,” she said.
Not everyone is supportive. As part of last month’s nationwide March for Life event, hundreds of anti-abortion demonstrators protested outside of Lubbock’s Planned Parenthood clinic. Along with Texas State Sen. Charles Perry of Lubbock, Republican Party of Texas Chairman Allen West was among the evening’s keynote speakers.
“One of our legislative priorities for the Republican Party of Texas is to end the murder of pre-born children,” the crowd applauded as West spoke. Before ending his speech, he urged them all to contact their state representatives.
As the crowd revs up before the final march, a counter protest containing a couple dozen folks mounts down the road. Kate Peaslee, a life-long Planned Parenthood supporter, helped coordinate that event. “I was a Planned Parenthood patient, like one in five women in this country are or have been, and I want the option of Planned Parenthood as a resource,” she said.
Still, the clinic has challenges ahead. Not only did they return to Lubbock in October at the peak of the pandemic, but shortly after, a group of citizens started pushing for an ordinance to ban abortions in the city.
Lubbock will vote on becoming a sanctuary city for the unborn on May 1, 2021. For now, Planned Parenthood is not offering abortion services in the West Texas city, but it does plan to at some time this year.
This is a part of a larger report in collaboration with the Texas Observer.