National health care provider Planned Parenthood is filing a lawsuit to protect access to safe and legal abortion in Imperial County, California, which borders Arizona and Mexico.

According to the United States Census Bureau, 81.8 percent of Imperial County's population is Latino. Also, the county is ranked dead last in the state for health factors and clinical care by the 2015 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Imperial County was ranked as having the sixth highest in California, according to The California Department of Public Health. Additionally, Guttmacher Institute indicated nearly 13,000 women in Imperial County needed publicly funded contraceptive services in 2010, but less than 3-in-10 were provided those fundamental services.

For quite some time, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest has distributed training and education. Also, it has helped residents to raise funds for a new, state-of-the-art health center that offers birth control, cancer screening and STD testing and treatment. Authorities approved all plans for the construction of facility; all of the necessary permits were obtained; and ground was broken so that the facility could be functional by spring. However, anti-abortion protests were spurred by national figures, including Michele Bachmann, David Gibbs and Alveda King, and the City of El Centro city then proceeded to carry out a series of delay that prevented the Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest from opening the center. The city denied Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest its occupancy permit just days before its doors were to open, thus denying the residents of Imperial County access to meaningful health care.

"This is unprecedented in the state of California," said Tracy Skaddan, general counsel for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, in a statement.

"We complied with all the building, fire, and safety requirements for licensure, but the City of El Centro Fire Chief made an arbitrary and unilateral decision to deny our final documentation. City officials have no business allowing personal beliefs to trump the safe and legal abortion services that are protected by both state and federal laws. The City of El Centro is not following the law regarding building and fire inspection standards for health facilities of this kind."

Following several weeks of delay, the city issued paperwork on May 5 but imposed TRAP laws and regulations, which would prevent women from making their own deeply personal decisions about pregnancy. Officials have withheld the final paperwork needed to provide in-clinic abortions at the center. According to Planned Parenthood, the city asserts that the facility must comply with additional building code requirements, which would involve expensive and burdensome modifications. According to Planned Parenthood, no other comparable facilities in California are subject to the more burdensome requirements. For this reason, Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest has opted to file a suit in state court in order to ensure they can provide safe and legal in-clinic abortion procedures at the El Centro facility.

"Planned Parenthood won't be intimidated when politicians try to interfere with our work to expand access to care, especially in areas of the country where the need is greatest," said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. 

"We will go to court to fight for the women in Imperial Valley, who deserve a high quality provider of safe and legal abortion in their community. It's 2015 -- no longer should geography prevent a single person in this country from getting the highest quality and most innovative reproductive health care possible."


"As of [Monday, May 12], Planned Parenthood had received the necessary documentation to move forward with opening the center and providing the full range of reproductive care. As a result, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest will no longer be filing a lawsuit against the City of El Centro as indicated on Friday. Included below is a press release sent from PPPSW this morning with more details," said Devon Kearns, State Policy Press Officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "For more information on the situation in Imperial County, California, or to schedule an interview with a Planned Parenthood representative, please contact the Planned Parenthood Media Office at 212-261-4433"