A new Planned Parenthood location will open in Rogers on September 14. courtesy of PP Great Plains

After shutting down in 2019 because of meddlesome protesters and some trouble with a lease, Planned Parenthood is going back into action in Northwest Arkansas.

Planned Parenthood is set to begin providing family planning, gender-affirming care and limited primary care at their new location at 1222 West Poplar Street in Rogers on September 14. The plan is to grow from there, expanding primary care offerings and providing abortion services by the end of the year.

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“We believe everyone should have access to safe and legal abortion, so we do intend to offer that service in the future,” said Emily Wales, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. The group is currently working through the tangled cat’s cradle of regulations and requirements Arkansas law requires abortion providers to meet.

“We’re eager to open care as soon as possible for patients who need us,” Wales said.

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The closure of the Fayetteville clinic in 2019 proved instructive.

“Challenges can be motivating, and that’s how we thought of it,” Wales said.

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There will be no wrangling over the lease this time because Planned Parenthood owns the building. And there will be no trouble with protesters clogging up the entrance because Planned Parenthood owns the parking lots and can kick out loiterers.

Planned Parenthood chose the new location in Rogers because it was well-suited for their purposes, having served as a gynecology office before. The building is roughly twice as large as the previous clinic in Fayetteville, and will be able to accommodate the initial staff of five with room to grow. That capacity may be even more important than they anticipated, considering this week’s Supreme Court action that at least temporarily ends abortions after six weeks in neighboring Texas.

A century old nonprofit known as a stalwart provider of birth control, STD testing and treatment and affordable health care in general, Planned Parenthood keeps chugging in Arkansas despite incessant attacks from politicians and protesters. While Planned Parenthood provides a broad menu of health services, sex education and abortion are among them, keeping the organization in the political crosshairs. In 2021 the Arkansas legislature passed a law banning all abortions, but the measure was quickly enjoined by the courts. State lawmakers also banned organizations that provide abortions from bringing their sex education programs to public schools. That’s a real shame considering that Planned Parenthood really knows their stuff here, and ongoing ignorance about reproductive health keeps Arkansas saddled with among the very highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation.

Abortion care, legalized in the United States by the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, isn’t easy to access in Arkansas.

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The Planned Parenthood in Little Rock provides medication-induced abortions up to 10 weeks after the start of a woman’s last period. The Little Rock Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer surgical abortions, which can be performed legally in Arkansas through 20 weeks of pregnancy, or up to 22 weeks after a woman’s last period. The only surgical abortion clinic in the state is Little Rock Family Planning.

Planned Parenthood bought the Rogers building quietly in February 2020 and was able to handle renovations without controversy.

“We were really happy to get through the purchase and renovation without any drama,” Wales said.

But that chapter of peace and quiet appears to be over. As expected, Jerry Cox and his crew over at the Family Council are verklempt at the news that people in Northwest Arkansas might be having sex. Anti-choice activists are organizing vigils and prayer campaigns. And the operator of Loving Choices Pregnancy Centers in Northwest Arkansas, a group that aims to convince women to carry their pregnancies to term, is apparently hoping to set up shop next door. The group is reportedly in talks with the owner of a home next to the new Planned Parenthood location to buy that property. In the meantime, the group said they will have a van parked there.