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Planned Parenthood shifts resources in Idaho to serve women heading out of state for care

The shift includes a new Planned Parenthood clinic that’s in the works in Ontario, Ore., where Planned Parenthood Columbia and Willamette already has leased space.

BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

Planned Parenthood has closed its Boise clinic, but it’s not a cutback; instead, it’s part of a shift in the group’s services to provide reproductive health care broadly across the region, including to women who have to travel out of state for abortions as state and federal laws change.

The shift includes a new Planned Parenthood clinic that’s in the works in Ontario, Ore., just across the state line from Idaho’s Treasure Valley, where Planned Parenthood Columbia and Willamette already has leased space. The current Oregon clinic location closest to Idaho is in Bend, said Kristi Scdoris, director of marketing and communications for the group that serves Oregon and Southwestern Washington. “Ontario would be much closer,” she said.

“We’ve been staffing up at all our health centers,” Scdoris said, “as we are already currently seeing some patients from out of state.”

In Idaho, which is served by the organization’s six-state Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky region, Planned Parenthood had three locations, in Boise, Meridian and Twin Falls.

The group is closing five of its locations across the six states, said Katie Rodihan, communications director, and shifting the savings into expanding its “patient navigator” services, telemedicine services, and more, including connecting women who must travel out of state to resources including funding and follow-up care.

“We are consolidating our Boise and Meridian health centers,” Rodihan said. “We looked at how we could continue to serve patients in a reality where patients in Idaho may need support to go out of state to access abortion care.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling shortly overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Idaho has a “trigger law” on the books that requires that 30 days after that happens, abortion will become a crime in Idaho, with only narrow exceptions to save the life of the mother or for rape or incest cases that are documented with a police report.

In addition, Idaho lawmakers this year passed a Texas-style law banning all abortions after about six weeks, before most women know they’re pregnant, with enforcement consisting only of allowing relatives of the aborted fetus to sue doctors for minimum $20,000 damages. Backers of the Texas law have touted it as a way halt abortions even before the U.S. Supreme Court acts. The Idaho Supreme Court is set to hear a court challenge from Planned Parenthood over that law’s constitutionality on Aug. 3.

“In Idaho, when we expect abortion to be completely banned,” Rodihan said, “we’ll have patient navigators who can stand with them every step of the way and figure out how can we refer you out of state for an appointment, how can we connect you with … the financial resources you’ll need to travel, and how can we coordinate to provide follow-up care once you’re home here in Idaho.”

The Meridian and Boise clinics were only 15-20 minutes apart, Rodihan said. “Our hope is that by consolidating the two health centers, any patients that need to come in for an appointment won’t be too inconvenienced going to Meridian instead of Boise. But it does free up funds for us to invest further in telemedicine and in our patient navigators.”

Abortion is only a small fraction of the services Planned Parenthood provides, Rodihan noted. Most commonly, the organization’s clinics provide birth control and contraception services, testing for sexually-transmitted diseases, and general reproductive health care, including pregnancy care, adoption referrals and parenting classes. They also provide gender-affirming hormone care, a service which they’ll soon be offering via telemedicine.

Planned Parenthood is the only public abortion provider in Idaho, Rodihan said. The only other providers are private physicians who provide care to their existing patients, but generally not to new patients. “If you were looking for an abortion, we would be your only option,” she said.

The closure of the Boise clinic was first reported Thursday by the Idaho Statesman; it closed June 1.

Scdoris said there’s not yet any timeline on when the new Ontario clinic will open. “We have leased the space,” she said. “We are looking into expanding our health care services … to meet the unmet needs in eastern Oregon, and with the realization that folks from Idaho are going to be seeking care as well.”

Rodihan said, “Planned Parenthood remains and always will remain fully committed to the people of Idaho, regardless of the direction the Supreme Court our state laws go. … That will not change.”

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.

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