FORT WORTH -- Planned Parenthood of North Texas has broken ground in southwest Fort Worth on a $6.5 million health center and administrative office to meet a growing need for women's reproductive-health care in Tarrant County, an organization official said.
The center under construction at 6400 John Ryan Drive will include a larger family-planning center, an ambulatory surgical center and offices, according to the organization.
Scheduled to open in 2013, it will replace the smaller medical and administrative building on Henderson Street, said Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of North Texas.
"Tarrant County is one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas," he said. "We needed a new, state-of-the-art health center in Fort Worth."
The project comes after a state rule removed clinics "affiliated" with abortion providers from the Texas Women's Health Program. As a result, the Obama administration announced that it would halt funding for the Texas program.
Construction on the center started a few weeks ago and is being funded by the organization's $21.5 million capital campaign, which started in 2009, Lambrecht said.
Planned Parenthood of North Texas has a five-year plan to refurbish, relocate and improve 21 health centers.
"Many leaders in Tarrant County stepped up to support our efforts" during the campaign, he said.
Planned Parenthood serves about 26,000 men and women in Tarrant County, Lambrecht said.
Some in the community have raised concerns about having a facility offering abortion services near an adoption center and a school.
Michael Dean, senior pastor at Travis Avenue Baptist Church, said he and others heard for months that Planned Parenthood was going to build a new facility.
However, not until ground was broken did they learn the location, next to the Gladney Center for Adoption, he said.
The new center will also be in the vicinity of Trinity Valley School, he said.
The Planned Parenthood website says the new facility will be three times as large as the current center.
"Our concern is this will become a megacenter for Planned Parenthood," Dean said. "Our prayer would be that they do not perform abortions at this facility."
Al Meredith, senior pastor at Wedgwood Baptist Church, said he believes that Planned Parenthood moved quietly on the project to avoid opposition. No sign at the site indicated what was being built, he said, and permits filed with the city listed a Dallas management company.
Dean said that he and others tried to ask Planned Parenthood about the new facility but that questions went unanswered.\
Meredith said one contractor pulled out of the project after discovering the facility was a Planned Parenthood center. The contractor did not return a phone message left by the Star-Telegram.
"They seemed to do this really surreptitiously," Meredith said. "People have a right to know what is going on."
Lambrecht said that the organization didn't hide the project and that it partnered with the management company to acquire the land and go through the permitting and building process, not an unusual step.
Abortion services make up less than 5 percent of what Planned Parenthood provides, Lambrecht said.
Other services in the planned 19,000-square-foot facility include education and preventive healthcare to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and the need for abortions, as well as early detection of breast and cervical cancer.
The ambulatory surgical center will provide a wide range of gynecological services other than abortions, he said.
As for Gladney, Planned Parenthood of North Texas provided more adoption and prenatal-care referrals than abortions in 2010, Lambrecht said.
Some of those referrals were to Gladney.
"As far as we're concerned, being next door to Gladney is wonderful," he said.
A Gladney spokeswoman released a statement that said: "As a leading adoption center, we work closely with multiple referral agencies, including crisis pregnancy centers, churches, medical facilities and Planned Parenthood, to counsel pregnant women about the option of adoption. We expect to continue to work with all these entities going forward."
Dr. G. Sealy Massingill, president-elect of the Tarrant County Medical Society, called Planned Parenthood an integral part of women's healthcare in Tarrant County and said he looks forward to the facility's opening.
"They serve a need that we can't always serve," said Massingill, who is also chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology department at JPS Health Network. "We're happy to continue to work with them in whatever way we can."