IN 2015, there were twenty-six Planned Parenthoods in Ohio, and Jared Thorne photographed each one. Over dozens of weekends, the artist drove to every corner of the state, setting up a large-format camera and using 4×5 chromogenic film to create his spare, desaturated images. Many were made on Sunday mornings, the only time that anti-choice protesters would leave the site, presumably to attend church services.
Without context, it’s difficult to know what one is seeing, which is the point: Planned Parenthood buildings are not designed to stand out, to make themselves a target. You’ve surely walked by one or two without knowing it. You almost certainly know someone whose life has been indelibly impacted by Planned Parenthood, who has, perhaps, waited in these parking lots for a triple-booked appointment on a cold winter afternoon.
There are now seventeen Planned Parenthoods in Ohio; only two of them currently provide abortion services, bringing the state’s total number of abortion providers to five clinics serving a population of 11.68 million people. The state’s 2019 prohibition of all abortions after six weeks (earlier than many people even know they are pregnant) is now in effect, a near-total ban lacking even the most humane exceptions. A project that was started seven years ago to quietly celebrate the essential work of this bedrock of healthcare has, with the reversal of Roe v. Wade, become something else: an act of memory, a monument to a world slipping away faster than we once might have imagined.
Jared Thorne is associate professor of photography at the Ohio State University. He recently completed a series of photographs in Indiana, part of a larger project to document Planned Parenthoods throughout the Midwestern United States.