HOUSTON, Texas -- One could argue that Planned Parenthood is following the lead of so-called "big box" stores. With abortions on the decline and a difficult economy, the organization has shifted from small neighborhood clinics to large regional facilities.
Since 2007, the abortion provider has opened a big clinic in Aurora, Ill., outside of Chicago, a 23,000 square-foot facility in Sarasota, Fla., and a 40,000 square-foot facility in Denver.
Now, the fourth "supercenter" is opening in Houston, Texas, Tuesday, May 11. It's the largest of the new clinics, standing six stories tall with 78,000 square-feet on six acres.
The Business of Abortion
Pro-lifers in Houston fear it will dramatically increase the number of abortions.
"Planned Parenthood isn't investing this kind of money in order to do less business," Father Carlos Martins, with the Houston Catholic Charismatic Center, said. "The center sits just across the Gulf Freeway from the clinic. Martins was one of the pro-life leaders who opposed the supercenter from the start.
In public statements, Planned Parenthood said it's opening the facility to meet demand.
"There is an increasing need for affordable health care in Houston and Harris County because we have more uninsured residents than any other area in the nation," Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas, Inc., said in a statement.
But former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson said Planned Parenthood is also hoping to increase abortion services.
"They are going to be charging anywhere from $500 to $2,500 per abortion procedure," she explained. "So it's a very, very lucrative part of their business and that's really what keeps them afloat."
Former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson spoke with CBN News about the practices by abortion clinics that led her to become a pro-life activist. Watch her comments here, as she explains why Planned Parenthood targets minority women, why abortions are so lucrative, why she thinks the abortion rate will go up and the best way for pro-lifers to fight back.
Johnson made headlines last year when she quit her job as director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas, after watching an ultrasound of an abortion. Johnson pointed out that the new Houston facility will have an entire floor dedicated to abortion services.
"They have five exam rooms and two operating rooms and they can do late-term abortion procedures," she told CBN News.
In public statements, Planned Parenthood downplayed its abortion services at the new center. It's a common theme, one that was revealed in a CBN News interview last year with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards.
"At Planned Parenthood, we see 3 million patients a year," Richards said. "Ninety-seven percent of the health care is preventative."
However, the money trail shows that abortion, while comprising a small 3 percent of overall services, provides a big chunk of revenue. Jim Sedlak of the American Life League analyzed a recent Planned Parenthood annual report. He found abortions made up 37 percent of clinic income.
"It is the highest-priced item they sell," Sedlak noted.
Current trends make it likely that the Houston supercenter will easily expand its abortion business. The metro area is one of the most rapidly growing urban centers in the country.
Also, the new facility sits right in the middle of Latino and African-American neighborhoods. Research has shown that minority groups have the highest abortion rates. The University of Houston and Texas Southern University are located nearby as well.
"There's a lot of poverty, a lot of college students," Martins said. "A lot of people who fit the profile of who Planned Parenthood is going to go after."
Planned Parenthood has responded to the charge that it's targeting minorities. The organization said the new location right off the freeway provides easy access to clients.
"Planned Parenthood chooses locations based on the greater community's need for our services. This location provides us with more room to serve our clients more efficiently, increased security, visibility and accessibility, and it gives us room to grow," a Planned Parenthood statement explained.
But Johnson said Planned Parenthood's "Promotora program," an outreach to Latinos, makes its plans clear.
"They intentionally go into these neighborhoods and say -- 'You don't have to worry about it. You can come in, we're not going to report you. This is a safe place to go,'" she explained.
"They never talk about abortion, but that's the hook," she said. "Just go get them in the door, so they can develop that rapport so they can tell them, 'If you want birth control we can provide that for free and if you ever have an unintended pregnancy we can help you with that, too.'"
Faith Community Rallies
Houston's faith community has opposed the new clinic from the beginning. It has organized construction boycotts and prayer vigils, including a massive rally on Martin Luther King Day. That event drew major evangelical leaders and national media attention.
Dave Welch, executive director for the Houston Area Pastor Council, wants city government to enforce current abortion restrictions and to create new ones. He has been working to develop policy proposals for the city council to consider.
"What we're trying to do is to make it as unprofitable as possible for Planned Parenthood to take the lives of innocent, unborn children," Welch said. "It's a horrendous thing to say that, but we know it to be true."
Pro-lifers plan to maintain an on-going physical presence at the clinic. After years on the inside, Johnson is now a fierce advocate for those prayers on the outside.
"What happens is when the workers are going in and the women are going in it is pricking their conscience and they have to think 'Wow, someone's really holding me accountable for my choice. These people are there praying -- they know what I'm doing,'" Johnson said.
More than 8,000 abortions a year have been performed in Houston. The new Planned Parenthood supercenter is a fresh reminder of plans to drive those numbers up.
Now the question remains as to whether the Houston community will finally demand -- "not in our backyard."