El Centro, Calif.
In the spring of 2015, Planned Parenthood finished construction on a health center in El Centro, Calif., in the southeast corner of the state near the Mexican border. When the facility applied for a standard transfer agreement with the El Centro Regional Medical Center, a hospital owned by the city, hundreds of anti-choice activists protested outside the hospital’s board meeting, demanding that the transfer agreement be denied. In response, the city commissioned an independent review to investigate the agreement’s legality, which found that El Centro Regional Medical Center had no legal right to deny a transfer agreement. More than 2,000 anti-choice protestors, supported by National Right to Life and cheered on by anti-choice leaders like Michele Bachman and Alveda King, then attended a City Council hearing to demand that the Council take control of the hospital’s decision and deny the transfer agreement. The City Council resisted the pressure, citing the results of the legal review and state law that protects access to abortion, and upheld the transfer agreement. However, just before the health center was set to open in early April, El Centro’s Fire Chief reclassified the building as an outpatient surgery center and denied it fire clearance, stating that the building needed to meet more burdensome safety standards. Planned Parenthood, pointing out that no other abortion clinic in the state was required to meet such burdensome requirements, threatened to file a lawsuit against Fire Chief Hubert and the City of El Centro. On May 5, several weeks after the planned opening, city officials granted the facility a temporary occupancy permit, enabling it to open with limited hours to provide family planning services, excluding abortion. A week later, just before Planned Parenthood filed their lawsuit, the City issued clearance for the clinic to fully open. While their fire clearance is still subject to a final review from the State, Planned Parenthood of El Centro will begin offering abortion services as soon as it receives its license from the California Department of Public Health.
RH Reality Check covered the conflict
Read more in-depth coverage
of El Centro’s City Council hearing.
Visit the health center’s website here