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Not Banned in Bend 

Reproductive health clinics are expecting to see an increase in demand after leaked Supreme Court Documents suggest Roe v. Wade will be overturned

On May 2 Politico released a draft opinion that revealed the Supreme Court is on track to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court decision that protected woman's access to abortion without government restriction. If none of the justices who voted to overturn Roe change their decision, 26 states are poised to either ban or restrict access to abortion, according to The Guttmacher Institute. Oregon removed penalties for abortion in 1969 and in 2017 it became one of the few states to guarantee access to abortion into law.

click to enlarge Planned Parenthood clinics in Oregon, like this one in Bend, expect to see a significant increase in demand for services from Idaho residents if Roe v. Wade 
is overturned. - CREDIT JACK HARVEL
  • Credit Jack Harvel
  • Planned Parenthood clinics in Oregon, like this one in Bend, expect to see a significant increase in demand for services from Idaho residents if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

In neighboring Idaho, a trigger ban criminalizing abortion after six weeks is expected to impact Western states with protected abortion rights. Planned Parenthood, the United States' largest reproductive health service provider, is anticipating increased demand in every state that hasn't restricted abortion access.

"We already see patients coming from Texas, just with that happening. People come to Central Oregon for these services for different reasons. Most of the time it's because they already have a support system here. So, I anticipate we will see people from all over the country," said Joanna Dennis-Cook, Bend Health Center manager for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. "Obviously, we're more likely to see people from Idaho than what we were already planning on because we're the closest clinic for a good chunk of Idaho."

Planned Parenthood data from February showed states surrounding Texas saw a nearly 800% increase in abortion patients from Texas compared to the previous year after the state passed a ban on abortions after six weeks of gestation. Increased demand comes with a set of challenges for Oregon clinics. The Columbia Willamette branch of Planned Parenthood said it's expanding the reach of its telehealth services and making sure staff is supported.

"We've already been working quite a bit and making sure our staffing levels are really good in anticipation of what's going to be coming down the road," Dennis-Cook said. "Just making sure we're finding ways to support our staff to be prepared for what we anticipate is a pretty decent increase in demand."

Abortions account for less than 5% of Planned Parenthood services, with most of its resources going to STD testing, providing contraception and cancer screening. Clinics in states that ban or restrict abortion access wouldn't immediately be restricted from providing reproductive health services, but with a state government's hostility to Planned Parenthood, it's expected to create burdens that impact the range of Planned Parenthood's services.

"In 2016, after Trump was elected, all of our health centers saw a dramatic increase from patients for things such as long-acting birth control methods, IUDs, as Planned Parenthood was facing a similar threat of defunding and access issues," said Kenji Nozaki, Planned Parenthood of Columbia Willamette's chief of affiliate operations. "Even in Portland, we anticipate an increase of patient volume for all services, not just abortion."

Idaho passed a bill modeled after the legislation in Texas banning abortion after six weeks. Only 43% of abortions take place in the first six weeks of gestation; 36% occur between seven and nine weeks and 20% after 10 weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Many folks don't know that they're pregnant until six weeks," Nozaki said. "We expect this to have huge and negative impacts on health risks for pregnant women, greater complications and long-lasting effects for families' financial considerations."

Planned Parenthood's patient navigator program helps connect patients with the health care they need, helping plan travel, overcome financial hurdles or mend any language barriers. It's a program Planned Parenthood is strengthening as reproductive care is expected to become more inaccessible for about a third of the country.

"They're working against the clock, which is why we want to make sure we're not only open but we're providing resources and partner resources, information about what the law is, how to ensure that they're safe, how to connect to a patient navigator or similar program so that they understand where they can go to get their needs met," Nozaki said.

Bend's still several hours away from Idaho's border by car, and in-state demand is expected to increase as Eastern Oregonians lose access to Planned Parenthood's Boise clinic. With Boise out, services for eastern Oregon, including a clinic, are being considered.

"We are seeing a desert, so to speak, in Eastern Oregon, many folks in Eastern Oregon would travel to their nearest center, which was in Boise. Now that that's no longer an option that's a huge issue," Nozaki said. "So, we are talking to our partners, we're reviewing the map, we're making lots of considerations and we're exploring all sorts of options to make sure that there's care there."

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...
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