The newly opened medical clinic on Jacksonville’s Southside offers a wide range of services, including annual health exams, men’s and women’s health care, vasectomies and breast exams.


The people who run the nonprofit clinic on Powers Avenue hope to provide a low-cost health-care option for the newly insured under the federal Affordable Health Care marketplace as well as people who fall between the cracks of qualifying for Medicaid and buying health insurance.

The message of clinic officials is that it offers far more than its name — Planned Parenthood of North Florida — indicates.

“Most of what we do is provide preventive health-care services,” said President and CEO Elizabeth Fraley. “Florida is one of the states that has not expanded Medicaid. That means that in our service area there are tens of thousands of individuals who can’t afford health insurance and will receive no assistance under the Affordable Care Act … We can provide those high-quality services at a reasonable cost.”

The core mission of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country remains abortion services. As a result, controversy follows the clinics. That’s why at least once a week, a pair of abortion protesters quietly stand outside the Jacksonville clinic, holding signs proclaiming their opposition.

On a recent morning, the signs read, “Planned Parenthood kills 900 babies daily.”

The clinic staff goes on about its business, meeting whatever health-care needs that day’s patients require.

“I understand that people are passionate about this issue and I respect their right to voice their belief in a lawful, peaceable way,” said board chairwoman Kirsten Doolittle. “Our goal … is to make sure that all women have access to excellent health care, so that they can lead happy and productive lives. “

Each affiliate determines exactly which abortion services and other services are available at individual clinics, based on provider availability and training in specific areas, available space and community needs, Fraley said.

The Jacksonville clinic, headquarters of the 25-county North Florida affiliate, offers medical abortions, which is the use of a pill to end early pregnancy up to nine weeks. The affiliate’s other clinics in Gainesville and Tallahassee provide only abortion referrals.

Jacksonville has the abortion pill service because that clinic has both an ultrasound machine — purchased with a grant a few years ago — and physicians available in the community.

But Fraley and Doolittle want people to know the rest of the local Planned Parenthood story.

The Jacksonville clinic also provides annual physical exams, men’s health care, vasectomies, breast exams, HPV vaccinations, HIV and STD testing, pregnancy testing and related services, pap smears, contraception, health-care services for the gay community and educational programs, among other things.

“I don’t think most people understand that our services include basic well care and education,” Doolittle said. “Our community has several public health problems, not the least of which is Jacksonville’s rate of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Planned Parenthood provides education and prevention programs throughout the community.”

Since recently relocating from Beach Boulevard, the clinic can accommodate far more patients at its new site, which has double the space. It now accepts Florida Blue insurance and is working to add other plans, she said, but uses donations to help keep costs down for the uninsured.

A sampling of clinic fees are $50 to $60 plus any needed lab work for a “problem visit,” $145 to $165 depending on age for a full panel of sexually transmitted disease testing and $100 to $200 — depending on age — for a well-woman exam, about half what a private physician charges, she said.

Brad Straley is president of Jacksonville for Life, a group that according to its website works “to help mothers, save babies and spread a culture of life in Jacksonville.” He said he is unmoved by the push to expand the local Planned Parenthood affiliate’s identity.

“The world’s largest abortion provider can call themselves whatever they would like,” he said. “But when you do more abortions than anyone else in the entire world and the vast majority of your domestic business is abortion … you kill babies for a living.”

But representatives of area health-care organizations said the community can only benefit from having more low-cost clinic options.

“Equitable access to preventive health-care services is absolutely essential to support, sustain and improve the health status of a community,” said Nikole Helvey, interim CEO of the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida.

An estimated 1 million Florida adults are not eligible for Medicaid and do not qualify for tax subsidies or premium assistance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace plans, she said.

“They remain completely without health coverage, and subsequently many live without access to even the most basic primary health care and preventive health services,” she said. “Organizations such as Planned Parenthood are trusted and well-positioned entities in their local communities to offer and coordinate a variety of key primary and preventative health services.”

Health care is especially critical for women in their childbearing years, whether they want children or not, said Jennifer Gornto, executive director of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition.


Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109