Grand Chute Planned Parenthood suspends abortions

Officials say suspension is temporary; pro-life leaders hope otherwise

GREEN BAY — The only facility still performing abortions in northeast Wisconsin has suspended abortions for the next six months.

Green Bay Bishop David Ricken, center, and Fr. Thomas Farrell, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Appleton, lead an estimated 200 people in prayer outside of a Planned Parenthood facility in Grand Chute, Wis., on Aug. 22. The abortion facility announced in early October that it was suspending abortion services for six months. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Planned Parenthood in Grand Chute suspended abortions in mid-October, citing a lack of medical staff. The building and Planned Parenthood’s office in Appleton remain open. While Planned Parenthood did not respond to The Compass, various news reports and sources say that the suspension is because they lack an abortionist for the site.

At the news, Bishop David Ricken expressed prayers “that this place may remain closed forever so that innocent lives are spared and mothers and fathers may find the true gift and blessing of the perpetual commitment in marriage.”

The bishop also offered prayers for others connected with the Grand Chute facility.

“We understand and pray for those who have been associated with this clinic,” he told The Compass. “We pray most especially for the mothers and fathers of the innocent children whose lives were taken there. As a church, we extend to them the mercy of Jesus. We pray for those ‘medical’ personnel who have performed abortions in this clinic that their minds might receive light and understanding of the gravity of taking the life of another human being, especially one who is voiceless, defenseless and innocent.”

Heather Weininger, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, noted that the Grand Chute action “is not the first time such a ‘problem’ for the abortion industry has come up. Last year, the abortionist for Milwaukee’s largest abortion facility lamented that he couldn’t retire because there was no one to take his place.”

Chris Schwalbe, a member of Holy Family Parish in Fond du Lac, Wis., holds a "Defund PP" poster during an August protest at the Planned Parenthood facility in Grand Chute, Wis. Planned Parenthood announced in early October that the Grand Chute facility would suspend abortion services for the next six months. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Chris Schwalbe, a member of Holy Family Parish in Fond du Lac, Wis., holds a “Defund PP” poster during an August protest at the Planned Parenthood facility in Grand Chute, Wis. Planned Parenthood announced in early October that the Grand Chute facility would suspend abortion services for the next six months. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

While calling it “lamentable” that Planned Parenthood intends the suspension to be temporary, Weininger added that, “This whole situation is really quite telling: when the rubber meets the road, when it comes to the point when someone must truly act on their ‘pro-choice’ views, very few can actually go through with the killing of an unborn child.”

Gail Hjortness heads the 40 Days for Life in Appleton campaign, which concludes on Nov. 1. “It’s been pretty exciting that they aren’t doing abortions there,” she said about the Grand Chute facility, adding that the last abortions were performed there on Sept. 28 and 29.

Hjortness said that some of the people who have been praying at the Grand Chute site at first wondered if they still needed to go out there. Hjortness assured them they should, explaining that clinic personnel are still offering abortion consultation for women and use Skype to arrange referrals to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Milwaukee.

With that in mind, Hjortness said that the local churches involved in the 40 Days “all agreed to send people out there on a regular basis,” with each church signing up for prayer on specific days of the month.

Some of the people who pray regularly at the clinic belong to St. Pius X Parish in Appleton. Fr. Tom Farrell, pastor, has led a Eucharistic procession from St. Pius to the clinic each year for the past nine years. He called the news of the suspension of abortions in Grand Chute “a beautiful thing” and added his gratitude to everyone who has prayed outside the clinic.

Earlier this year, Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services reported that abortions around the state decreased in 2014 by 10 percent, the sixth straight year of abortion declines in the state. There were 5,640 induced abortions reported last year. That number does not include chemical abortions.

Dan Miller, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin also expressed hope that the facility, located at 3800 N. Gillett St. in Appleton, will “stay closed forever.”

“Faithful pro-lifers’ prayers have been answered after 43 years in the desert,” Miller added, referring to the 1972 Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion in the United States.

Celia McKee, Dignity of Human Life coordinator for the Green Bay Diocese, admitted to wondering if the first reports about the Grand Chute clinic closing were too good to be true, “after so many years of praying at the clinic.”

However, the reports were soon confirmed and McKee found that “my heart was immediately filled with such joy. Our prayers have been answered. We are hopeful that this will not be a temporary halt of abortions there, but a permanent one.”

Hjortness and others in Appleton are already planning to be back at the Grand Chute clinic April 1, when the six-month suspension is set to end. She said the last abortions were performed at the clinic on Sept. 28 and 29.

“We’ll be there,” she said, “7 (a.m.) to 7 (p.m.), saying, ‘Hey, we haven’t left yet.’”

And, Hjortness added, if the facility in Grand Chute closes permanently, prayers will be offered at Planned Parenthood’s Appleton office, just as the 40 Days for Life participants pray outside the Planned Parenthood office in Ashwaubenon.