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Planned Parenthood works to eliminate barriers to abortion

Worried that regional access to abortions is declining, local Planned Parenthood leaders said this week they'll encourage more doctors to perform the services and create a fund to help women afford them.

At the same time, the agency will continue work to reduce unintended pregnancies.

We want to do anything and everything we can do to decrease barriers to people seeking abortions, said Kellie Shoemaker, community outreach coordinator for the local Planned Parenthood office.

The move follows the abrupt closure in July of the All Women's Health Center, a Eugene abortion clinic. Officials said the center closed for financial, not political, reasons.

Where there were once 10 abortion providers in Eugene, now there are three, said Diane Duke, associate executive director for Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon, whose region extends from Eugene south.

In Jackson County, four Ashland doctors perform abortions, she said.

Planned Parenthood pondered whether its clinics should begin providing abortions regionally ' and decided against it, she said.

Instead, they've formed a task force to work with community doctors, the state's medical school and existing abortion providers to increase services.

In addition, they've created an abortion access fund that would defray costs ranging from medical care to transportation, Duke said.

Declining access to abortion is a serious concern, said the Rev. Paul Robinson of Medford, president-elect of the southwestern Oregon chapter.

It's a legal procedure and in my way of thinking, it's a morally justifiable decision, Robinson said. It isn't a question of not providing it. It's a question of making sure that, for those who find it necessary, that it remains safe, protected and available.

The task force will study reasons fewer doctors perform abortions, including lack of available training, reduced reimbursement for services and threat of political protest or violence, Robinson said.

At the same time, Planned Parenthood will emphasize services that last year reached some 28,000 people and prevented an estimated 7,000 unintended pregnancies.

That includes publicizing the availability of emergency contraception, the so-called morning-after pill,'' said Holly Easton, a local doctor and Planned Parenthood board member.

When taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, the pills supply a dose of hormones that prevent ovulation, prevent fertilization or prevent implantation of the fertilized egg, Easton said.

More than 14,000 abortions were performed in Oregon last year, a figure that has remained steady since at least 1995.

In Jackson County, just over 500 abortions were performed in 2001, nearly twice the number in 1995.

A local anti-abortion advocate said goals of the new task force expose what he called Planned Parenthood's true stripes.

I reject the notion that Planned Parenthood has in their interest a reduction in abortion, said Brian Platt, chairman of Jackson County Right to Life, an anti-abortion group.

In spite of what they say, they continue to make these efforts to make them accessible and affordable and all those buzz words, Platt said. But from my view, babies are still being killed.

Reach reporter JoNel Aleccia at 776-4465, or e-mail