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Planned Parenthood gets go-ahead in Henrietta 

click to enlarge The Planned Parenthood on University Avenue in Rochester.

PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

The Planned Parenthood on University Avenue in Rochester.

An embattled Planned Parenthood has been cleared to open in Henrietta, after a state judge threw out the Town Board’s previous denial of the project and ordered the board to grant the organization a permit.

The Town Board in June denied a plan for a 7,500-square foot Planned Parenthood facility in a plaza on Jefferson Road, by a vote of 3-to-2. The measure was supported by supervisor Stephen Schulz and the board’s Millie Sefranek, both Democrats.

The vote came following two public hearings in which 55 of 63 residents spoke in opposition to the facility, on the grounds that they were opposed to abortion. The facility plans to offer a broad range of services, including STD testing and treatment, pregnancy testing, and first-trimester abortions, which are medically induced.

In a letter supporting the denial, Republican board members Lisa Bolzner, Rick Page, and Joseph Bellanca cast Planned Parenthood as a “surgical medical facility” and argued that it would not fit the character of the plaza.

“A surgical medical facility is completely inconsistent with the purpose and character of a retail shopping plaza — a patron does not shop at a surgical medical facility or stop in for a visit in between shopping stops a retail stores (like one might stop at a restaurant for food or at an entertainment venue for a break),” their letter read.

Planned Parenthood of Western and Central New York President Michelle Casey had emphasized to the Town Board during an earlier public hearing that surgical procedures would not be performed at the site. She said those procedures would be done at “a hospital, not an outpatient setting.”

The nay-voters also expressed concern that the site would cause an influx of traffic, citing New York state’s plan to be a “safe harbor” for out-of-state travellers seeking abortions.

Following the denial, Planned Parenthood filed a complaint in state Supreme Court that argued the decision by the Town Board was arbitrary, and that the project’s proposal met every stipulation needed to open in the plaza.

Judge Victoria Argento, a Republican, ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood, writing in her decision dated Oct. 12 that the board acted “arbitrarily and capriciously.”. Her ruling likened Planned Parenthood to an urgent care facility, which she noted already operates in the area.

She ordered the Town Board to grant the permit to Planned Parenthood. Board members complied with the order during a meeting Wednesday.

In a statement, Casey said Planned Parenthood is looking forward to opening the clinic in Henrietta.

“We believe every person deserves unequivocal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, regardless of where they live,” Casey said. “It is unfortunate that the ideological beliefs of a small minority of people were placed above the interests and wellbeing of the Henrietta community. PPCWNY will always fight back against the undue burdens stigma and political motivations place on our patients and staff.”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.
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