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At A Virginia Planned Parenthood Clinic, Practitioners Worry For Their Patients

Anne Logan Bass, a clinician at Planned Parenthood in Roanoke, Va., fears that misinformation and inaccurate information will make it harder for the nonprofit organization to do its job providing women's health services, including abortions.
Ari Shapiro
Anne Logan Bass, a clinician at Planned Parenthood in Roanoke, Va., fears that misinformation and inaccurate information will make it harder for the nonprofit organization to do its job providing women's health services, including abortions.

All Things Considered co-host Ari Shapiro is on a road trip leading up to the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20. He is driving through North Carolina and Virginia, on the way to Washington, D.C. These are two swing states that went in opposite directions in November, each by a close margin: North Carolina for Trump; Virginia, for Hillary Clinton. As the country faces dramatic changes, we're asking people what they want from that change — and what concerns them.

From her desk in Roanoke, Va., Patrice Campbell books appointments for the 15 Planned Parenthood clinics across the region.

Right after the election, she noticed a huge increase in calls, many of them asking for the same thing.

"We've seen where a lot of patients — I would say maybe 50 to 70 percent of patients — [are] eager to get in for long-term contraceptives," Campbell says. "So their focus is, I need to get an IUD before Jan. 20 because an IUD can last for five, even 10 years."

Jan. 20, of course, is Inauguration Day.

Anne Logan Bass has been a clinician at this Planned Parenthood clinic for eight years.

She says the election was tough for the entire staff.

"My mother actually called me, and she was asking how things were going, and I said, 'Mom it's just, we're all crying,' and she said, 'Is everyone worried they're going to lose their job?' and I said, 'No, everyone is so worried about our patients,' " Bass says.

For years, Republicans have tried to end federal funding that gets routed to Planned Parenthood, and they plan to try again after Donald Trump is in office.

They object to the fact that the organization provides abortions among other health care services — even though federal funds do not cover abortion services.

This clinic in Roanoke treats about 2,800 patients a year.

Nationally, Planned Parenthood says it treats 2.5 million patients a year, and abortions make up 3 percent of the services.

At the Sweet Donkey coffee shop in central Roanoke, Laura Rodriguez drinks tea while her 2-month-old baby girl stares wide-eyed at the world.

Rodriguez describes herself as lower middle class, working as a waitress.

She has no health insurance.

"I'm not a big fan of Planned Parenthood. I went there before for health issues, and they were extremely overpriced. I had to pay out of pocket, a lot of money," Rodriguez says.

Planned Parenthood says it uses a sliding scale for fees based on a patient's annual income.

Sarah Law — a registered nurse — sits in another corner of the cafe.

"I'm pretty conservative myself, and as far as abortions go, that's a different subject. But as far as women's health and Planned Parenthood, I think that does a lot of wonderful things for women that don't have the means to get proper care that they need," Law says.

In other words, even though Law is opposed to abortions, she thinks Planned Parenthood provides important services. To her, the argument that the only way to limit abortions is to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood "doesn't make any sense."

Figures released this week show that the U.S. abortion rate is at its lowest level since Roe v. Wade.

And Law fears that without easy access to contraception, those numbers could go back up.

As for Bass of Planned Parenthood, her hope for the next four years is to see more patients and increase access. Her greatest fear? "That misinformation and inaccurate, unreliable information is going to continue to make our job hard."

Use the audio link above to hear the full story.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.

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