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Aug. 15, 2022

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Clark County health care providers voice support for abortion rights

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
3 Photos
Protestors march around Esther Short Park on Friday, June 24, 2022, during a rally and march in response to the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade that protected abortion access nationwide.
Protestors march around Esther Short Park on Friday, June 24, 2022, during a rally and march in response to the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade that protected abortion access nationwide. The march started at the Clark County District Courthouse.(Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, Washington and Oregon still have some of the strongest abortion protections in the country, and abortion services are still available at Planned Parenthood clinics across the two states.

“I would like to speak directly to the people of Oregon and Southwest Washington from all of us at Planned Parenthood, because I know the headlines from today’s news has already created confusion and fear,” said Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette President Anne Udall at a press conference Friday.

“In Oregon and Washington, where our 12 Planned Parenthood health centers are located, abortion is still legal,” Udall said. “The (Supreme Court) decision will not deter us from continuing to provide the legal right to abortion to those in Oregon and Washington and allow them to exercise their reproductive rights.”

In her role, Udall oversees Clark County’s sole abortion provider: Planned Parenthood’s Vancouver Health Center.

“Our doors are open and will stay open,” she said.

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court’s decision will impact health care providers across the Northwest.

A study by The Guttmacher Institute indicates that Washington health centers could experience a 385 percent increase in out-of-state patients seeking abortions from states like Idaho where abortion will soon be outlawed. Similarly, Oregon could experience a 234 percent increase, according to the study.

14 Photos
People hold up a large sign Friday, June 24, 2022, during a rally at the Clark County Courthouse in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade that protected abortion access nationwide.
Rally for abortion rights at Clark County Courthouse Photo Gallery

In 2020, 839 abortions were performed in Clark County, and 16,050 were performed statewide, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

Twenty-six states are likely to ban abortions in the coming months, according to The Guttmacher Institute.

“We are being asked to meet an unmeetable moment,” said Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon President Lisa Gardner. “The 26 to 28 states that will be absorbing the health care of 24 to 26 states, depending on how things fall, is going to be a challenge.”

Since 2016, Planned Parenthood has been preparing for a post-Roe future by increasing telemedicine programs, hiring additional patient navigators and staffing clinics that are seeing an uptick in patients, Udall said.

“The Supreme Court, in making this decision, has created a health care crisis in our country,” Gardner said. “Everything that Planned Parenthood has been doing for the last few years has been gearing up for this moment.”

Following a leak of the Supreme Court’s decision in May, people from Texas and Oklahoma—the two states with the strictest abortion restrictions in the country—started making the trip to Washington and Oregon for abortion services, Udall said.

“We’ve already been seeing an uptick from people out of state,” Udall said. “And we’re prepared to continue serving anyone who needs care.”

Planned Parenthood provides roughly 75 percent of abortions in Washington and Oregon, and roughly 70 percent of those abortions are medication abortions, which are often conducted using telemedicine programs, Gardner said.

Another challenge for abortion providers in Washington and Oregon moving forward will be adapting to rapidly changing legislation.

“This is a new world,” Udall said. “The legal landscape is going to be mass confusion, and there is going to be a lot to learn over a short period of time. We’re paying very close attention to how the (Supreme Court) decision will impact any laws of individuals who may be traveling out of state into Oregon and Washington, and we plan to follow every single legal regulation and or law. We will comply.”

Other health care providers

Planned Parenthood isn’t the only Clark County health care provider that voiced support for abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s decision.

“The decision issued today by the U.S. Supreme Court eliminating the federal protection for abortion established almost 50 years ago with Roe v. Wade is dangerous and unjust,” read a statement provided by Legacy Health, which owns and operates Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. “Abortion is health care. As an organization dedicated to caring for patients, we know that people’s ability to make their own medical decisions is essential to their health and well-being.”

Health officials with Vancouver Clinic agreed.

“Vancouver Clinic is committed to supporting women at all times in their lives and strongly supports Oregon and Washington State laws that protect women’s reproductive rights,” said Dr. Alfred Seekamp, Vancouver Clinic’s Chief Medical Officer.

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