Editor’s note: This story was originally posted on April 14. On June 24, U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case and upheld a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions past 15 weeks of pregnancy. Friday’s Supreme Court decision overturns nearly 50 years of legal precedent holding that the right to an abortion is protected by the U.S. Constitution. But it won’t change things in Oregon and Washington, where the right to abortion is protected by state law.
Planned Parenthood is renting medical office space in the town of Ontario, on the Oregon-Idaho border.
It’s the latest strategic move by pro-abortion rights groups in Oregon. Earlier this year, in a quiet campaign, they successfully lobbied the legislature to set aside $15 million in an unrestricted fund for reproductive health equity.
Planned Parenthood has not confirmed its plans for the space, but it has said it is preparing for an influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortions in Oregon in light of multiple legal challenges to abortion rights.
“No matter what happens we will be there for our in-state and out-of-state neighbors, and continue to meet the needs of our patients,” said Kenji Nozaki, the chief of affiliate operations at Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.
“We are prepared to support anyone who seeks their legal right to decide whether and when to become pregnant.”
A clinic in Ontario could be a significant high desert outpost for access to abortion and other reproductive health care services, in advance of a U.S. Supreme Court decision anticipated this summer that many believe will overturn Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old landmark abortion ruling.
The small Oregon town is an hour’s drive from Boise, Idaho — one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country.
Idaho has two trigger laws criminalizing abortion at all stages of pregnancy that would take effect in the event of a successful legal challenge to Roe v. Wade.
More recently, Idaho passed a law, modeled after legislation in Texas, that would ban all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy by allowing family members to sue abortion providers.
The Idaho law was set to take effect on April 22, but the Idaho Supreme Court issued a stay while it hears a legal challenge filed by the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Idaho.
Oregon has no legal restrictions on abortion, but the state has just one clinic that performs abortions east of the Cascade Mountains, in Bend. For those seeking abortions in eastern and northeastern parts of the state, the closest clinics are out of state, in Boise or Walla Walla, Washington.
As first reported by the Malheur Enterprise, the office space Planned Parenthood is renting in Ontario was previously home to the Four Rivers Health Clinic, a nonprofit serving people without health insurance.
Joe Recla, the group’s executive director, said the rental agreement was a business decision. Four Rivers will use the rental income to continue to support uninsured patients. His board does not take a position on abortion.
In 2020, 1680 people received abortions in Idaho, according to data from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The overwhelming majority were Idaho residents and took place in Ada County, where Boise is located.
Economists have found that even a modest increase — up to 100 miles — in the distance a pregnant person has to travel to get an abortion leads to a significant decline in the number of abortions and an increase in the birth rate.