From birth control to family planning services and, soon, vasectomies, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is trying to adapt clinics that used to be known mostly for providing abortions to a post-Roe Wisconsin.
The health centers in Milwaukee, 435 S. Water St., and in Madison, 3706 Orin Rd. ― which formerly offered surgical and medication abortions ― have started taking appointments for a wide range of medical services including: breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, testicular exams, HIV testing and education, and post-partum care.
The clinics are also offering pregnancy assessment services ― which help date pregnancies including for people who are considering going out of state for an abortion ― miscarriage management, and abortion navigation services.
“PPWI is always contemplating ways to expand our reach and meet the needs of our patients in communities across Wisconsin,” said Amy Doczy, vice president of patient services. “At PPWI, confidential, high quality, affordable health care is our top priority. We look forward to welcoming all individuals regardless of their insurance or immigration status, gender and sexual identity."
The pivot to family planning services is one that leaders at the non-profit's former health clinics have been planning for many months, since it became clear that the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to overturn federal abortion rights guaranteed in Roe v. Wade. In June, the court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Center significantly limited access to abortion nationwide. Wisconsin effectively reverted to an 1849 law, written before the advent of modern medicine.
In addition to the expanded services and the training of newly-minted "patient navigators" ― who help people who are seeking abortion access out of state ― many of the clinics' OB-GYNs and nurses have sought out licenses to practice in other states and are splitting their time providing abortion care across state lines while offering other reproductive health care services in Wisconsin.
The Milwaukee and Madison clinics soft-launched the expanded birth control and family planning services in mid-October, said spokesperson Lisa Boyce. The clinics' schedules have been full ever since.
Overall, monthly demand for birth control services has spiked since August, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin's data shows: 30% in August, 104% in September and about the same in October when comparing the data to the same months last year.
Boyce also pointed to a study published Thursday by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, that found 30% of Wisconsin patients experienced delays in accessing reproductive health care because of the pandemic.
"So between the loss of abortion services and people's pause of accessing care during COVID, we see a need to encourage people to access preventive reproductive services to address their health and well-being," Boyce said.
As the clinics continue to explore expanding their services, vasectomies are next up on the list. There's been high demand for vasectomies since the Dobbs decision, Boyce said, to the point where patients in some cases are on long waiting lists at other providers.
"We are hoping to be able to launch those within the next couple of months," Boyce said.
Many of the health services that are new to the former abortion clinics are already available to patients at each of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin's 22 health centers across the state, Boyce said. The services are offered at all clinics regardless of a patient's ability to pay or their insurance status.
The ongoing changes at Planned Parenthood come as health care providers across the state continue to grapple with how to operate in a post-Roe Wisconsin, where abortion is only legal in situations where it is necessary to save the mother's life. For example, OB-GYN residency programs are offering training across the state border for doctors-in-training in order meet accreditation requirements.
The state's only abortion clinic not run by Planned Parenthood ― Affiliated Medical Services in Milwaukee ― has shuttered, its building is now up for sale. CEO Dennis Christensen, a retired OB-GYN, said the clinic initially tried to offer referral services and care for people after they had their abortions, but demand for those services was low.
For reproductive health resources in Wisconsin, visit the state Department of Health Services' Reproductive Health and Family Planning page.
Our subscribers make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal.
DOWNLOAD THE APP: Get the latest news, sports and more
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin adapt clinics to expand services