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NRL News
Page 13
June 2010
Volume 37
Issue 6

My Visit to Portland’s New Planned Parenthood Mega-Clinic

By Randall K. O'Bannon, Ph.D.

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 Parenthood logo.

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 memo, 3/14/07).

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 opening.

Background

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 care.”

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 Election Report).

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 year.

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.