This is a contributed commentary piece from Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Delaware.
Affordable, quality health care is in short supply in Sussex County, with the federal government characterizing the county as a primary care desert. That’s just one of the reasons we’re so thrilled to be taking patients at our new Seaford clinic — a facility that will offer an array of valuable services.
Yes, Planned Parenthood is best known for helping people become pregnant only when they wish to be. With the current polarized political climate and with so much focus on abortion in certain facets of the media, some people think that’s basically all our nonprofit handles. Undoubtedly then, many would be surprised to hear that abortion makes up less than 4 percent of services for the organization both nationally and locally.
Whether it’s helping a patient find the method of birth control that works best for them, screening for cancer, or providing prenatal care, Planned Parenthood of Delaware (PPDE) is proud to care for all who seek health services.
With its gender-affirming care, PPDE enables patients to express their true selves. With its testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, PPDE helps individuals have healthy sex lives. With its new behavioral care, PPDE assists people struggling through mental health crises.
At PPDE, abortion care is offered in a compassionate and non-judgmental way. We know that body autonomy, the ability to decide when (or whether) to get pregnant, is an essential right that’s lacking for far too many. We know people have unintended pregnancies for a variety of reasons, and we believe no one knows what is better for any one person than that individual.
Health care should be between a patient and their provider, not a patient, their provider, and the government. After all, what could be more American than freedom of choice?
We’re hopeful that this new location, the first PPDE clinic in Sussex after a 10-year absence, will be able to improve the health outcomes in the area. Sussex is booming, with its year-round population increasing by almost 23 percent in the 2010s, by far the highest among the three counties. While that presents plenty of opportunities, it also creates new challenges, one of which is the demands placed on the health care system.
The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services reports the average wait time for someone living in our southernmost county trying to see a primary care doctor with whom they did not have a pre-existing relationship doubled from two to four weeks from 1998 to 2018. Meanwhile, according to the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps in the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, as of 2018, 9 percent of Sussex residents were uninsured — the highest rate among Delaware’s counties. Sussex also ranks worst in its share of children living in poverty: 23 percent. Our clinic is vital to helping ensure health care access to our neighbors in Sussex County who don’t have pre-existing relationships with physicians, who are underinsured or uninsured, and who – too often – are forced to choose between putting food on the table or receiving the care they need.
And this clinic won’t only help Delawareans: Of the four Maryland and two Virginia counties on the Delmarva Peninsula that lie at least partially south of Delaware, five have poverty rates of 16 percent or greater, and several have shortages of providers as well. In fact, Seaford was chosen in part because it is in a central location that is accessible to many.
Unfortunately, Seaford City Council is attempting to restrict our health care services with an ordinance that would require patients and clinics to follow medically unnecessary rules regarding the disposal of fetal remains—a blatantly unnecessary and unconstitutional move.
Our clinics already comply with the requirements set out in Delaware law to dispose of fetal tissue safely and respectfully. The state regulates abortion facilities and crematoriums, and requires that all medical tissue be disposed of in a medically appropriate, safe, and sanitary manner. With this ordinance, the Seaford city council is attempting to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.
What’s more, this ordinance would unconstitutionally burden people’s access to abortion care. Under the proposed ordinance, our clinic would be forced to pay for the extra costs to dispose of fetal remains, resulting in more paperwork and complex procedures for patients.
With abortion under attack and with Roe v. Wade at risk of being neutered by the U.S. Supreme Court, the services provided by Planned Parenthood are more valuable than ever. Like many clinics in safe states, PPDE is preparing to take visitors suddenly unable to access abortion care, which was for half a century a constitutional right and remains supported by a majority of the U.S. population.
We at PPDE are proud to say we will always offer culturally competent, top-notch, and judgment-free care — and we ask for your support in making sure that remains possible. Please send a letter to Seaford City Council asking them to strike down the proposed abortion ordinance once and for all, so that we can provide safe, unbiased, and unobstructed health care to all of our patients.