Starting in January, the Cedar Rapids Planned Parenthood Health Center (3425 1st Ave. SE) will be providing a new range of health care services for members of the transgender and gender nonconforming communities, including hormone therapy along with continuing healthcare and lab work.
“We had an interest in providing these services to better serve the needs of our entire community,” Misty Rebik, the regional director of strategic partnerships and development at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said. “We’ve had a lot of phone calls asking questions and people wanting to get on the waitlist.”
Currently, the University of Iowa LGBTQ Clinic in Iowa City does provide care for members of the LGBTQ community, but Angela Finken Axdahl, regional director of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said said the distance and limited hours (Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.) can be a barrier to people in the Cedar Rapids area.
“Some of us would think nothing of going down to Iowa City, but it is a barrier to some, especially those without a car,” Finken Axdahl said. “To be able to provide that care here and take down a barrier means the world to me. We’re excited to be assisting patients to become who they really are.”
The center is the first Planned Parenthood clinic in Iowa to provide the services. A Lincoln, Nebraska clinic, which, like the Cedar Rapids center, operates under Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, already provides the Transcare services and has been used as a model to prepare the Cedar Rapids clinic.
“It’s really important to realize how crucial these services are and how rare it is for patients to receive nonjudgemental, compassionate care,” Rachel Lopez, the public relations manager for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said.
Ricki Wells, of Cedar Rapids, learned about the upcoming Transcare services through a friend and has already reached out to start the process of receiving care in January.
“I jumped up and down for joy, to tell you the truth,” she said. “I’ve spent the past 10 years looking for this care. I’m ready. I’ve always felt that I’m a woman in a man’s body.”
Diane Peterson, who, along with her husband, started up a Cedar Rapids chapter of PFLAG (part of a national organization formerly known as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), said they have been looking forward to the expansion of services at the clinic.
The organization hosts support groups — one for LGBTQ individuals and their family, friends and allies, and another, Transformations Cedar Rapids, that is focused on the transgender community. Peterson said that as more and more transgender people came asking questions about where they could find care, she realized the importance of having a clinic that offered transgender care in Cedar Rapids.
“I have a hard time not getting emotional because it has had a huge impact, just to see the hope that it gives people,” she said of the new services. “To have this here in the community makes them feel at-one with the community. It’s a sense of wellbeing, a sense that you matter in the community.”
The new services expand on Planned Parenthood’s central focus on accessible, affordable and nonjudgemental healthcare, Libby Slappey said during an event at the Cedar Rapids Planned Parenthood Health Center last week celebrating Planned Parenthood’s 100 year anniversary.
“There is no one we won’t see. That’s important,” said Slappey, who has been involved in Planned Parenthood since 1974, including serving on the board and working on the staff and as a volunteer.
In addition to celebrating the centennial milestone, the event looked to the future and some of the challenges that lie ahead following the election of Donald Trump and a Republican majority in both the U.S. House and Senate. Multiple states have taken action to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. Trump, who previously praised the organization, voiced his support on the campaign trail for efforts to pull federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Finken Axdahl said people have been calling in worried about losing access to birth control and other services, especially through the Iowa Family Planning Network, a special Medicaid program that offers a form of limited insurance coverage for family planning services.
“We will always strive to meet patients where they are in all areas, including rural or medically underserved areas,” Lopez, the public relations manager, said.
She said the most vulnerable communities — including low-income individuals, minorities and members of the LGBTQ communities — could see the largest impact on their access to healthcare due to the recent political changes.
“But we’ve been fighting for reproductive and sexual health care rights for 100 year,” Lopez said. “It hasn’t been easy, but we won’t back down. We want to assure patients that we are not going anywhere. We are resilient. We will not give up fighting for patients and their rights to make healthcare decisions autonomously.”