Planned Parenthood leasing clinic space in Ontario, Oregon

Clinic comes as the health care provider challenges a strict new abortion law in Idaho

By: - April 15, 2022 4:25 am
Protestors Rally Against Restrictive New Texas Abortion Law In Austin

Protesters hold up signs at a protest outside the Texas State Capitol on May 29, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Thousands of protesters came out in response to a new bill outlawing abortions after a cardiac activity is detected signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbot. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, based in Portland, is leasing what had been the clinic for Four Rivers Health Care at 604 S.W. Fourth Ave. in Ontario, according to Joe Recla, Four Rivers’ executive director.

“We weren’t using the building. They approached us,” Recla said.

The Portland-based Planned Parenthood didn’t respond to questions about its plans for Ontario, instead releasing a short, written statement.

“We believe that all people should have access to high-quality, affordable health care, no matter how much money they make or where they live,” according to Kenji Nozaki, Planned Parenthood’s chief of affiliate operations. He said the Portland organization “is currently exploring expanding our health care services in Oregon to ensure everyone can get the health care they need, when they need it.”

The building on Southwest Fourth Avenue has been used as a medical office since at least 1977, according to Ontario city officials.

Recla said he had no information on when Planned Parenthood intended to open in Ontario.

Word of Planned Parenthood’s arrival has been swirling in recent days through government and health care circles in Malheur County.

Idaho’s new abortion law being challenged in court

The move may be in response to developments in Idaho, where the Idaho Legislature last month passed Senate Bill 1309 to effectively ban medical professionals from performing abortions if fetal cardiac activity is detected, which generally occurs at about six weeks, according to an Idaho court petition filed by Planned Parenthood Great Northwest.

The law would leave enforcement to relatives who could sue medical professionals who perform an abortion in violation of the new limit. Among those voting for the bill was Abby Lee, Republican senator from Fruitland who is associate vice president at Treasure Valley Community College.

The Idaho law, called the Fetal Heartbeat Preborn Child Protection Act, was scheduled to take effect April 22, but Planned Parenthood Great Northwest sued in Idaho Supreme Court to block it.

On April 8, Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice G. Richard Bevan signed an order staying the law, according to the Idaho Capital Sun.

In its petition, Planned Parenthood said that, “Without access to abortion in Idaho, patients will be forced to travel extraordinary distances out of state.” The complaint listed distances to the nearest providers from Boise, including Walla Walla, Washington (250 miles), and Bend (319 miles). Ontario is 56 miles from Boise.

It lists itself as the “largest provider of reproductive health services” in Idaho with clinics in Boise, Meridian and Twin Falls.

Four Rivers Health Care was founded in 2020 and provide health services to low-income families and served immigrants and refugees.

Recla said the nonprofit closed the clinic at the end of 2021.

“Most of us are fairly older, and we just can’t keep up the pace down there,” Recla said.

He said Four Rivers is still arranging health and medical services for people who don’t have insurance. He said those needing the help can call 541-889-3510.

This story was originally published by Malheur Enterprise and the Oregon Capital Chronicle and is reprinted here with permission.

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Les Zaitz
Les Zaitz

Les Zaitz is the editor of the Oregon Capital Chronicle, the Idaho Capital Sun's sister publication in Oregon. He is a veteran editor and investigative reporter, serving Oregon for more than 45 years. He reported for The Oregonian for 25 years and owns community newspapers and a digital news service. He is a national SPJ fellow, two-time Pulitzer finalist, including for a lengthy investigation of Mexican drug cartels in Oregon and five-time winner of Oregon’s top investigative reporting award.