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Agency filling gaps from clinic's closure.

Byline: TIM CHRISTIE The Register-Guard

In response to the closure of the only abortion clinic in the region, local Planned Parenthood leaders said Tuesday they'll encourage more doctors to perform abortions in more communities and continue their work to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

"Access is being chipped away bit by bit," said Diane Duke, associated executive director the Eugene organization. "We decided it was time to step up to the plate and take a proactive approach."

The announcement comes three months after the abrupt closure of All Women's Health Services near the University of Oregon campus, the only abortion clinic on the Interstate 5 corridor between Salem and the California border.

All Women's is based in Portland. Its leaders closed the Eugene clinic with no warning to its local staff or clients. The clinic had to bring a doctor from Portland to perform abortions and was experiencing financial difficulties, officials said.

Planned Parenthood doesn't plan to open its own abortion clinic in Eugene or offer abortions at its existing offices in the region, Duke said.

"We looked at that and decided it would not be the best use of our resources," she said.

Instead, a Planned Parenthood task force will work with area physicians, the state's only medical school and existing abortion providers to expand access. The idea is to have doctors in communities throughout southwest Oregon providing the service, Duke said.

At one time, 10 doctors in Eugene and Springfield provided abortions. Now there are three, Duke said. Since the closure of the All Women's clinic, those doctors have increased their capacity to meet demand, she said. Women also can go to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Salem for abortions.

"We want to encourage local physicians to provide the services," Duke said. "We want to provide an environment that is safe for them to do so."

Having multiple abortion providers throughout the region makes it harder for abortion protesters who otherwise could target a single clinic, Duke said.

"You have a single facility and you have one bomb," she said. "We need to provide an environment that gets rid of the fear and intimidation that physicians face."

To expand the base of abortion-performing doctors, Planned Parenthood plans to encourage more doctors to learn how to perform the procedure and to work with Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, the state's lone medical school.

"Physicians are not encouraged to learn the service," Duke said. "We would like to provide training for existing physicians and encourage medical students at OHSU to learn how to provide abortions and recruit them to our communities."

Another goal is to advocate expanded use of mifepristone, a pill that induces abortions in the first seven weeks of pregnancy, Duke said.

Planned Parenthood will also continue its work to reduce demand for abortions, Duke said.

"We believe this is a pro-woman approach," she said. "No woman wants to be faced with ending a pregnancy. Preventing unintended pregnancies is our first goal."

Last year, the agency estimated that it prevented about 7,000 unwanted pregnancies in southwest Oregon. It provides free birth control to anyone who earns 185 percent of the federal poverty level or less. For a single woman, that's $15,456 a year; for a family of four, that's $31,200.

Also last year, Planned Parenthood launched "Rights, Respects, Responsibilities," an initiative to apply western Europe's public health strategies to develop healthy sexual attitudes and behaviors among young people, Duke said.

Western Europe has the lowest rates of unintended pregnancies, births and abortions in the industrialized world.
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Title Annotation:Abortion: Planned Parenthood has been working to ensure continued access since All Women's Health Services closed.; Health
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 23, 2002
Previous Article:For the Record.
Next Article:Homeless protest sparks debate, but no solutions.

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