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City Inspection Delays Opening Of El Centro Planned Parenthood Clinic

Planned Parenthood called the city’s actions ‘unlawful’

Photo credit: Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest

The lobby of the El Centro Planned Parenthood is pictured in this undated photo.

The clinic was scheduled to open Thursday. The city of El Centro has said it will not issue a certificate of occupancy for the clinic until some extensive issues were addressed. Planned Parenthood said the delay is "unlawful."

El Centro city officials declined this week to issue an occupancy permit to a Planned Parenthood clinic that had been scheduled to open Thursday.

City Manager Ruben Duran told the Imperial Valley Press that the clinic would not receive the certificate of occupancy necessary to open its doors until some extensive issues were addressed.

At the clinic's final inspection, the city's fire chief said the building had been incorrectly classified. The new classification requires the clinic to add a fire-suppression system and other expensive improvements.

Planned Parenthood officials said the city is responding to pressure from people who don't want the clinic to open.

El Centro Fire Chief Kenneth Herbert said that had nothing to do with his decision.

"I've got a job to do and it's about protecting life, enforcing life safety code and such, and I've never been one to bow to pressure," Herbert said.

Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest said in a statement it is working with its legal counsel and the city to ensure the certificate of occupancy is issued. The group, which has 19 health clinics in San Diego and Riverside counties, said any further delay is "an unlawful attempt to restrict us from opening."

The El Centro clinic would be Planned Parenthood's only one in Imperial County.

"The current action taken by the City of El Centro is discrimination against women and their right to reproductive health care," the statement said. "We are concerned that the El Centro City Attorney, City Manager, Fire Chief, and other key officials are not following the law regarding occupancy and fire inspection standards for health clinics of this kind."

According to the Imperial Valley Press, Planned Parenthood can appeal the city's decision but can't open until a successful appeal has been made or the clinic has been brought into compliance.

Religious and community leaders turned out in large numbers at hospital board and El Centro City Council meetings to oppose a transfer agreement that the clinic and the city-owned El Centro Regional Medical Center signed. The agreement allows patients and their medical records to be transferred from the clinic to the hospital should they need a higher level of care.

If opened, the clinic will be the only place a woman can get an abortion in Imperial County.

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