TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri announced plans Wednesday to merge with the abortion provider's central Oklahoma affiliate in July and open a new Oklahoma City clinic, even as political leaders in the three states seek to cut off Medicaid funding.
Laura McQuade, the Kansas and Mid-Missouri affiliate's president and CEO, said the merger is designed to create a regional health care "powerhouse" and isn't a response to attempts by legislators and governors in the three states to prevent public funds from going to Planned Parenthood.
She also said the merger is part of a larger, 20-year trend of smaller, local Planned Parenthood affiliates consolidating into regional organizations. The central Oklahoma affiliate's CEO retired last year, and McQuade has been the organization's interim CEO since January under a contract in which the Kansas and Mid-Missouri group has managed operations in central Oklahoma.
"Really, this was about a sustainable business model," she told reporters during a telephone conference call.
The new organization, Planned Parenthood Great Plains, plans to keep operating eight existing clinics in the three states, including five in the greater Kansas City area and two in the Oklahoma City area. It also announced plans to open a ninth, in northwest Oklahoma City.
"We will not be doing any downsizing as a result of the merger," McQuade said.
None of the merging affiliates' clinics in Missouri or Oklahoma provide abortions. A clinic in Overland Park, Kansas, performs surgical abortions and provides the abortion pill, and a clinic in Wichita, Kansas, began offering medication abortions in March.
Asked whether abortions would be offered in Oklahoma after the merger, Kansas and Mid-Missouri spokeswoman Bonyen Lee-Gilmore said, "We're always keeping our options open."
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life, called the opening of a new Planned Parenthood clinic in Oklahoma "sad" and "unfortunate."
"It's anti-woman. It's anti-baby," she said. "They care more about business than they do about caring for women and children."
Planned Parenthood affiliates in Connecticut and Rhode Island merged in 2009, and affiliates in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi formed Planned Parenthood Southeast in 2010. Planned Parenthood groups in Iowa and Nebraska merged before absorbing the affiliate for Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma in 2011.
But Oklahoma plans to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood on June 29. And in Missouri, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon recently signed a budget approved by the GOP-led Legislature that blocks federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood.
In Kansas, the health department announced in May that it would cut off Medicaid funding, and Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit to block the action. The state has since delayed the cutoff date three times, until July 7, and a hearing in the lawsuit is set for June 7.
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