Clinic facilities

The proposed family planning clinic in Visalia closed by pro-life residents

Mar Monte family planningPlans for a new Visalia clinic have been temporarily canceled amid growing controversy from some residents.

A public hearing was scheduled for Monday’s Visalia city council meeting but was “continued indefinitely” at the request of the Orosco Group, the developer of the project. The hearing has since been removed from the meeting program.

“Our intention was to rent or sell a building, not to invite a forum for a national debate on abortion at the Visalia city council,” said co-partner Patrick Orosco. “It became that despite our best efforts.”

The non-profit organization that provides family planning and healthcare services nationwide said it would not give up its search for a new Visalia home.

“We were forced to waive our put option due to strong community objection,” said Lauren Babb, vice president of public affairs. “Our goal is to find a place to provide care in Visalia, and we will continue to work with community partners to make sure that happens.”

Continued:State constitutions thwart conservative strategies for a post-Roe world

The Visalia town planning commission approved the location on Mooney Boulevard in a 4-0 decision on certain objections to the proposed clinic.

Local promoter David Paynter argued the clinic did not have sufficient parking and protesters would disrupt shoppers at nearby retailers Bed Bath & Beyond and Marshalls. Paynter runs the businesses, as well as the nearby Sequoia Mall and many malls along Mooney.

He appealed the decision to the Visalia City Council.

A public hearing to determine the clinic’s fate was repeatedly postponed as controversy around the proposal grew, drawing heated appeals from opponents and supporters of the clinic.

Supporters pointed to family planning services that the nonprofit provides, especially to low-income residents of Tulare County. However, critics mainly objected to Planned Parenthood’s abortion services and what would have been a “highly visible” location in the city on one of its main thoroughfares.

“Our love for our neighbors is why we so strongly oppose efforts to perform abortions here in Visalia,” said Patricia June Boon, leader of Tulare-Kings Right to Life, wrote in a recent Times-Delta opinion column.

Babb told the Times-Delta that the Visalia Clinic would not perform on-site abortions. She pointed out that Planned Parenthood has been in Visalia for nearly a decade without a single protest or incident at its Stevenson Street clinic.

Tulare County has the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate in California and also ranks among the highest in the state for sexually transmitted diseases. Babb said this is one of the reasons Planned Parenthood will remain committed to the region.

Continued:Without Roe v. Wade, their abortions wouldn’t have been possible.

“Tulare County is a low-income area. Our hope was to continue to expand health care here. I don’t think we would have anticipated that outcome,” Babb said. “Time is running out because [Supreme Court decision Roe V. Wade] is eroding. We have to serve California no matter what.”

Before the pandemic, Planned Parenthood’s Visalia clinic served about 2,000 patients a year, 75% of them low-income. Babb said Planned Parenthood had been looking for a larger Visalia clinic for many years so it could treat more patients and provide primary care services.

“We had no intention of trying to rock the boat, so to speak, when we picked this (Mooney) location,” Babb told The Times-Delta. “We just picked it because it was the first one that made sense in six years.”

Joshua Yeager is a journalist with the Visalia Times-Delta and a member of the Report for America corps. It covers the news deserts of Tulare County with a focus on the environment and local government.

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