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From a Planned Parenthood clinic, Oregon governor vows fight for ‘fundamental’ abortion rights

Kristyna Wentz-Graff
Clinic staff listen as Gov. Kate Brown held a joint press conference with Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, reaffirming Oregon’s commitment to abortion access, Aug. 25, 2022, at the Hillman East Portland Health Center.

On the day the near-total ban on abortions goes into effect in Idaho, Planned Parent leaders in Oregon say visits from out-of-state patients needing abortions are already up.

As a near-total ban on abortions took effect in Idaho today, Oregon’s Democratic governor stood with the director of Planned Parenthood Columbia-Willamette at a clinic in Portland and said that the stakes for control of state government have never been higher.

“We cannot rely on Congress and we cannot trust the Supreme Court to ensure access to our fundamental rights,” said Gov. Kate Brown. “We are going to have to fight in every state in this country to elect pro-choice governors across the country and to elect pro-choice legislators.”

Brown’s term ends this year, and the University of Virginia recently rated the Oregon governor’s race a toss-up between Republican Christine Drazen, Democrat Tina Kotek, and unaffiliated Betsy Johnson, each of whom would take a different approach to abortion.

Idaho’s new law bans all abortions, with an extremely narrow exception for some victims of rape and incest. On Wednesday, a judge put a temporary stay on part of the ban in cases of medical emergencies over concerns that it violates a federal law on emergency care.

Oregon has the fewest limits on abortion and most extensive public funding for it of any state in the nation, according to the Guttmacher institute.

Planned Parenthood’s local executive director, Anne Udall, said Thursday that the organization has already seen an increase in patients traveling to Oregon for abortions from states with bans, including a woman who took a taxi more than 300 miles from Boise to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bend.

“We are seeing people from almost every red state in the country right now. Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Idaho,” Udall said.

Democrats control both chambers of the Oregon Legislature and earlier this year approved $15 million in unrestricted funding to support abortion access and reproductive health in Oregon. In a first, the funding isn’t limited to Oregon residents and the first grant went to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, which helps pay for abortions and travel costs.

“Oregon will continue to be a safe, welcoming and inclusive state for all those who want to seek access to reproductive health care,” Brown said.

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici and Representative Andrea Valderrama also appeared with Brown at the Portland clinic and said people should have the freedom to decide whether or when to bear children.

“Abortion can’t be banned,” Bonamici said. “It becomes unsafe, and it becomes for the wealthy.”

The Bend clinic is now the closest place providing abortions for the 850,000 people living in the Boise metro area and for eastern Oregonians.

Planned Parenthood has hired a contractor and is working to renovate a health clinic in the Oregon-Idaho border town of Ontario. There is no firm opening date yet.

Planned Parenthood says most of the abortions it performs in Oregon occur during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and about 70 percent of all abortions use medication abortion or the abortion pill.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Amelia Templeton is a multimedia reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, covering Portland city hall, justice and local news. She was previously a reporter for EarthFix, an award-winning public media project covering the environment in the Northwest.