A major fire engulfed n El Centro Planned Parenthood clinic in the early morning hours of August 15. Planned Parenthood’s Imperial Valley Homan Center is the only abortion provider in greater Imperial County. While the facility had been a staple for care in the region since it opened in 2015, it became a safe haven for out-of-state abortion patients following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling in 2022, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

Bordering Mexico to the south and Arizona to the east, Imperial County is home to both the arid Colorado Desert and a severe medical desert. The rural county has one of the highest teen birth rates in California, and the loss of the Imperial Valley clinic leaves El Centro residents without another abortion provider for roughly 90 miles. The region has the second-lowest median income of any California county, with 17.3 percent of its residents living below the poverty line. The U.S. Census estimates that 86 percent of the county’s population is Hispanic or Latino.

Planned Parenthood said that the facility had seen a substantial increase in out-of-state patients since 2022, particularly due to the lack of reproductive health care access in neighboring Arizona, where abortions are currently banned after 15 weeks.

The Calexico Chronicle, an Imperial Valley news outlet, reported that fire crews were dispatched to the Planned Parenthood around 1:45 a.m. on Tuesday. The blaze had begun in a pile of items donated to the Salvation Army Thrift Store, which shares a fence line with the clinic.

“At this time, we are unsure of the cause of the fire and are working with officials to complete a full investigation,” Darrah DiGiorgio Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, said in a statement….

From the Intercept