My Visit to Portland’s
New Planned Parenthood Mega-Clinic
By Randall K. O'Bannon,
On a recent speaking trip to
the West Coast, I saw it for myself with my own two eyes: Planned
Parenthood’s massive new 42,000-square-foot clinic and office
building in Portland, Oregon.
While the facility is bigger
than most Planned Parenthood clinics, I wanted to see it for myself
because, as we shall see, it typifies what PPFA is doing in many
places across the country right now.
It was big, clean, new, with
lots of bricks, lots of steel, lots of window space. There is
currently no large sign identifying the building’s occupant, but an
appliqué in the corner of one of the windows displays the Planned
It is located in an area of
Portland where a older, poorer area abuts a nice upper-middle-class
neighborhood. For those relying on public transportation, it is
located on a major bus line. Wealthier clientele can use the freshly
paved, large parking lot in the back with a private entrance.
The Portland Development
Commission, an appointed political board charged with “revitalizing”
the area, sold the parcels to a developer who expressed interest in
building a medical care facility with Planned Parenthood as the
publicly identified tenant in 2007 (The Oregonian, 4/12/07; PDC
Some of the building was
supposed to be devoted to “retail space,” but there were no obvious
tenants other than Planned Parenthood.
I didn’t go inside, didn’t
want to. But I’ve seen pictures showing modern furnishings and lots
of airy space in the lobby, all with decorator colors and hues.
A factsheet put out by
Planned Parenthood states that the new $12.5 million facility has
ten examination rooms and four counseling rooms. That indicates
capacity for a great many abortions.
A spokesperson says that
they are not doing surgical abortions at this time, but they are
doing chemical abortions with RU486.
It opened on Valentine’s
Day. There were lots of local dignitaries and politicians. Planned
Parenthood’s national president Cecile Richards was there. Three
ministers, including PPFA’s full-time chaplain for Washington,
Oregon, Alaska, and Idaho, offered a formal blessing for the
Scores of PPFA clinics are
closing, and many local and regional affiliates are merging. But at
the same time, many of these affiliates are opening shiny new
mega-centers, clinics of 10,000 square feet or more, capable of
large numbers of abortions.
Five affiliates in Illinois
merged in 2008, and a few clinics closed shortly after the new state
affiliate opened a giant new 22,000 square foot facility in Aurora.
Denver opened a 50,000
square foot mega-clinic in 2008. What is for now the largest Planned
Parenthood clinic opened in Houston earlier this year—78,000 square
feet. Other facilities of at least 10,000 square feet or more have
opened or have been announced in Massachusetts, California,
Tennessee, Florida, New York, Michigan, Virginia, and elsewhere.
Like Portland, many have
large, tastefully decorated waiting rooms and multiple exam and
counseling rooms. Many women can be seen and processed at once. But
they also typically have a large amount of office space for
affiliate operations and activities. (Wall Street Journal, 6/23/08)
A factsheet put out by the
Portland clinic says the new regional service center will not only
double its capacity to serve patients, but will expand the group’s
online health center, grow its education department, and “extend our
public affairs effort, advocating for reproductive rights and health
Consistent with those aims,
the new clinic is said to have room dedicated not only to medical
and administrative purposes, but space available for candidate
forums and phone banks as well.
Interestingly enough, the
Planned Parenthood Action Fund touts Oregon as one of the places
where it increased turnout by single women by “more than 20,000”
votes in the 2004 election (Planned Parenthood Action Fund, 2004
Planned Parenthood has
argued that abortion accounts for only 3% of its total services
nationally. (It represents 5% of services at the Portland clinic’s
Oregon affiliate.) Yet owing to the price differential between
performing an abortion and, say, distributing contraceptives,
Planned Parenthood stands to make a lot more money off abortion than
any other service it provides.
Using $413, the average cost
for a standard first-trimester suction curettage abortion in 2005,
and applying it to the 305,310 abortions performed at Planned
Parenthood clinics in 2007, the $126.1 million take would represent
at least a third of Planned Parenthood’s total clinic income for the
Since PPFA clinics advertise
and perform more expensive chemical and later term abortions, the
income from abortion is almost certainly higher.
Does the new Portland
clinic’s claim that it only intends to provide chemical abortions
mean that it is somehow less aggressive than other Planned
Parenthood clinics? Hardly.
Women can still be referred
to a Planned Parenthood clinic in the area where surgical abortions
are performed. And if the Portland clinic decides to offer surgical
abortions in the future, it certainly appears to have the facilities
to do so.
Building a mega-clinic is a
way to increase both profits and the number of abortions. The newer,
larger, prettier facilities help attract a wealthier clientele that
can pay more for their services. The Skanner, a local Portland news
outlet, notes, “The clinic operates on a sliding scale fee system,
offering all kinds of reproductive health services at reduced rates
to low income women” (2/18/10). Thus the rich can help subsidize
services to the poor.
The mega-clinic in Portland
has not been open long enough to tell, but abortions in Illinois
rose by 5% in 2008 after the opening of the Aurora mega-clinic, with
substantial increases in some of the counties surrounding the new
clinic (Chicago Sun Times, 1/3/10).
Though “parenthood” is part
of name that appears on the door of these clinics, it is telling
that, despite all their available space, neither the Portland nor
the Aurora clinic offers prenatal services.
While local pro-lifers were
unable to stop the Portland mega-clinic’s construction, what did
happen was that many in the community, some who had not been
significantly involved in pro-life activities in the past, came
together to counter the mythical image of Planned Parenthood as some
entirely benign provider of women’s health care. They became
informed and got involved.
We can only hope that more
people will learn what really goes on inside Planned Parenthood’s
clinics, what abortion involves, and what it does to women,
minorities, the economy, and to society at large.
That will help build a
brighter future—for everybody.