GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids’ only procedural abortion clinic has closed after the death of its medical director and gynecologist, forcing patients to find alternative services hours away.
The Heritage Clinic for Women had offered abortion services in West Michigan since 1973. Director Dr. Thomas Gordon died last month and since then, the clinic has remained closed.
“The only place in West Michigan that is providing procedural abortion now with the passing of Dr. Gordon is Planned Parenthood of Michigan’s Kalamazoo health center,” Planned Parenthood of Michigan’s Chief Medical Operating Officer Dr. Sarah Wallett said.
Planned Parenthood’s Grand Rapids branch still offers patients medication abortion services; however, that option is available only to the 11th week of pregnancy.
“This is a big loss for the Grand Rapids community and in fact, it’s already impacting patients across West Michigan,” Wallett said.
Planned Parenthood of Michigan said there are only a dozen or so clinics within the state that offer procedural abortion services. Wallett said that what abortion rights advocates call TRAP — Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers — laws continue to create additional hurdles for new facilities to open.
“Providing procedural abortion is even harder than medication abortion because procedural abortions have to be performed in particular settings that meet extra codes that aren’t required for safety (and) are very expensive and difficult to maintain,” Wallett said. “Things like sizes of the hallway or bathroom ceiling heights — things that have nothing to do with providing an abortion itself.”
Wait times have increased for the Kalamazoo branch of Planned Parenthood for those seeking procedural abortions. While half of the abortions performed across the United States are medication abortion, Wallett said some people still opt for procedural abortions for a various of reasons.
“People shouldn’t have to wait weeks or drive hundreds of miles for care across the state of Michigan,” she said. “There is a financial toll: having to drive in the car and the gas money to get there, taking additional time off of work. Gathering additional child care as you may have to travel hundreds of miles or hours to the next closest center to provide abortion care. All of that adds up and it makes abortion significantly more challenging to access.”