A draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade has been leaked, as first reported by Politico. What does this mean for access to legal abortion in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest? Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is renting medical office space in Ontario near the Oregon-Idaho border. It has said that it’s preparing for an influx of out-of-state patients seeking abortions. Idaho recently passed an abortion ban modeled after the latest anti-abortion rights law in Texas. We dig into details about this with Anne J. Udall, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.
The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer:
Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. Last night, Politico released a draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. This morning, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed that the draft is authentic. The leak of the draft caused shockwaves around the country. But, for people who’ve been paying attention, the language of the draft itself wasn’t exactly a surprise. After all, with a new conservative majority, abortion rights activists and opponents all thought that – after nearly 50 years – the precedent of Roe v. Wade was likely to be overturned.
For more on what the end of a constitutionally established right to abortion would mean in the Northwest, I’m joined by Anne Udall. She is the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. Thanks very much for joining us.
Anne J. Udall: Delighted to be here.
Miller: What was your immediate reaction to the news yesterday?
Udall: It was a mixture of dismay, anger, and I would say surprise at some of the language that was used in it. It’s not a surprise that this conservative court is looking to overturn 50 years of precedent. We knew that was coming. But I think just the tone and the way it was written was quite disappointing and upsetting to me.
Miller: About half the states in the country would likely ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Of those, about half – about 13 – have so-called “trigger laws” that would take effect immediately. But Oregon is not one of those states. So, would anything change in Oregon in terms of legal access to abortion if this constitutional right were taken away?
Udall: It’s a great question, and you’re absolutely right. We predict that 36-38 million people will be impacted immediately by trigger laws and other bans – not in Oregon and not in Washington. Both of these states have strong state protection for a person’s right to access total array of sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion. So, short answer is no, nothing will change in Oregon. We do anticipate, however, a greater interest in potentially coming to Oregon for our services.
Miller: I want to turn to that in just a second, but to stick with the legal questions in Oregon or in Washington: What would it take for something to change In terms of those state protections?
Udall: It would take any number of action[s] through the ballot, whether that would be at the state level…the governor level could also. But, as I think any long-time or even short-time people who have lived in Oregon, we’ve had a number of ballot initiatives over the past 10 years to try to limit access to abortion, person’s ability to make that decision, and we have resoundingly as a state defeated those measures. And I don’t anticipate that we…we continue to see people pushing pretty hard. We had 13 anti-abortion proposed bills last year. I don’t think people know how strong the anti-abortion movement is, but every time Oregonians say no. And I don’t anticipate that changing.
Miller: Nor do you anticipate a change from the legislature itself?
Udall: No. I think there’s a strong pattern and trend in Oregon is to let people make these decisions, don’t get government in the middle of it.
Miller: So we’d be looking at an even more divided system of laws from state to state, which goes back to what you said earlier that expecting an increase in interest in people seeking abortions crossing state lines, say from from Idaho to Oregon to seek abortions. How big an influx of people are you expecting if Roe is indeed overturned?
Udall: The initial data that we’ve seen that is come out of Guttmacher Institute, which is one of the premier research organizations around abortion, sexual reproductive healthcare. Their prediction is potentially up to 234% more patients. And some of that is that a number of people in Eastern Oregon go into Idaho to access sexual and reproductive health care, including abortions, and so Oregonians will be impacted. But we also anticipate people from Idaho will also be looking at Oregon or Washington as options.
Miller: Are there enough abortion providers in Oregon to meet that increased demand?
Udall: Yes. We are a state that, again, really believes and understands that abortion is a safe procedure and we have a wide variety of people who are licensed. So, nurse practitioners, doctors, PAs…I anticipate that we will have what we need in terms of providers.
Miller: That’s striking to hear. Based on the increase you mentioned, I just would have thought that if you were- based on the the Guttmacher Institute’s projections expecting a 234% increase in people seeking abortions in Oregon, that there wouldn’t be enough providers. You’re saying that’s not a current concern.
Udall: It is not a current concern. Again, because of the state’s support of this as an option for someone to decide with themselves and their medical profession, we have always had a very strong interest from providers. And, between Planned Parenthood, O.H.S.U, independent, there’s a number of independent clinics, and I would anticipate providers from other states might also be interested in coming to Oregon to be licensed.
Miller: Let’s turn to Eastern Oregon. As first reported by the Malheur Enterprise with follow-up reporting from OPB’s Amelia Templeton, we learned that Planned Parenthood is renting medical office space in Ontario. What are your plans for that space?
Udall: When people have been asking us about Ontario and our plans, what we have been consistently saying is that we are exploring all of our health care services in Oregon to make sure that everyone is going to get the healthcare they need. And we haven’t been…we really have not made any more public announcements about Ontario. That article came out as a leak and we feel pretty strongly that we want to continue to do our outreach, our planning. We are very aware that Eastern Oregon is going to be impacted by Idaho – and obviously now that we see what cards are probably going to be played by SCOTUS – and we’re actively seeking ways to be able to provide health care that people are going to need that come out of Idaho. But in terms of specific plans about Ontario, I don’t have anything to share right now.
Miller: But, based on what you’ve just said, it’s possible we could imagine that this clinic, if it were to be up and running, it could be providing services both to people who are in Oregon east of Bend and to people in Idaho. Especially a huge population center around Boise who, all of whom might have no other access to abortions if not for a new center on the border.
Udall: Yes, I think that’s a good assumption to make. I also think that Utah also will be impacted. I think if you really look at the geography, one of the things we’re learning… [sound cuts off].
Miller: We have just lost our connection, obviously, to Anne Udall, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. There’s a lot more to talk about, obviously, about this issue. But this is just the the beginning of the next series of conversations we’re gonna have about abortion access in Oregon and in surrounding areas.
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