Jill June, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, sent an email to the health clinic’s staff to let them know that the Planned Parenthood affiliate will close on February 1:
Six Planned Parenthood employees in Tulsa who worked with WIC clients have already been laid off, according to the email.
The westside center primarily served WIC clients and keeping it open is no longer financially possible, June said.
“It’s extremely important to let our patients know that we will continue to be here for them, in the Tulsa area, no matter what,” she wrote. “This has been a challenging time for all of us. We will continue to do all we can to help the women, men and families who rely on us for care.”
Although state officials claim their decision to sever ties with Planned Parenthood is purely for “business reasons,” the organization maintains that the move is a politicized attack similar to anti-abortion activists’ attempts to strip funding from Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas and Arizona. On Christmas Eve, a federal judge denied Planned Parenthood’s request to block state officials from denying WIC funding, ensuring that Oklahoma will be able to move forward with its quest to defund the organization in the new year.
Planned Parenthood has been the largest independent contractor with Oklahoma’s WIC program — which provides food vouchers for low-income mothers and their children — for the past 18 years. The Planned Parenthood affiliates in Oklahoma do not perform abortions; rather, they are available to provide preventative care, family planning services, and referrals for abortion services to their low-income clients.
Ending the WIC contract puts three of the state’s four Planned Parenthood clinics in jeopardy, and some low-income women say they may end up skipping the health services they need if those health clinics remain closed.