Planned Parenthood of Northern New England plans to close five part-time health centers — four of which are in Vermont, and another on the border in New Hampshire — and expand the hours of seven others, the organization said in a Friday afternoon press release.
The changes are meant “to ensure the organization is sustainable and able to meet the needs of the region, patients, and staff long term,” Planned Parenthood said in the announcement.
In total, Planned Parenthood currently operates 11 health centers in Vermont. The four slated to close June 12 are located in Bennington, Hyde Park, Middlebury and St. Albans. Among them, Bennington is the only location that currently offers abortion services.
The Planned Parenthood health center in Claremont, New Hampshire, is also set to close. The four remaining New Hampshire locations are all located in the southern part of the state.
All four of Planned Parenthood’s clinics in Maine are staying open.
The organization said the closures will allow it to expand the days of operation to a minimum of four or five days a week at all of its remaining health centers. Those expansions will take place over the next year.
The announcement comes as federally protected abortion access is under threat. The U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to strike down the right to abortion, according to a leaked draft of the majority opinion.
If the court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling were overturned, abortion regulations would be governed by state law. The U.S. Senate failed to codify Roe into law on Wednesday. Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., supported the unsuccessful effort.
Under current state law, abortion would remain legal in Vermont — and voters in the state are slated to weigh in this November on whether to enshrine abortion rights in the Vermont Constitution.
Lucy Leriche, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund, told VTDigger last week that Vermont’s clinics are anticipating an influx of out-of-state patients who can’t access abortions at home.
After the Bennington location closes, five Planned Parenthood clinics in the state will continue to perform abortions.
Kai Williams, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s senior vice president of health care delivery, called the closures a “difficult but strategic decision” that would allow the organization to “rise to the moment that we are in,” according to the release.
Planned Parenthood said it’s expanding the days of operation at its Barre, Brattleboro and Williston locations. It’s also planning to expand the hours of the health center in Exeter, New Hampshire, as well as three in Maine.
“Our patients and our long-term ability to provide care are at the center of every decision we make,” Williams said in the release. “We believe these decisions will ensure that we can continue to serve northern New England for generations to come.”
There are no plans to change hours at the locations in Burlington, Rutland, St. Johnsbury and White River Junction.
Don't miss a thing. Sign up here to get VTDigger's weekly email on Vermont hospitals, health care trends, insurance and state health care policy.