A service women need | Editorial

It came as a surprise last week when Planned Parenthood announced its Oak Harbor facility on Goldie Road will be closed at the end of this year, bringing to an end its 26-year presence on Whidbey Island.

The reasons of course are mainly financial, with support from state and federal grants diminishing over the years. Leaders of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest decided to cut smaller facilities in rural areas and focus on larger family planning clinics in population centers.

The impact will not be small on Whidbey Island. The Oak Harbor Planned Parenthood Clinic was serving 1,071 clients, according to a news release. Mainly younger women, they will have to look for many reproductive services elsewhere. On North Whidbey, they’ll likely go to Mount Vernon or Marysville, while Central and South Whidbey residents may opt for Everett or Lynnwood. Either way, it’s a costly and time-consuming trip.

Planned Parenthood has been under fire for decades, particularly since several states and then the U.S. Supreme Court started allowing abortions. No abortions were done in Oak Harbor, but the Planned Parenthood office here offered counseling on the decision and made referrals to clinics that do abortions. Nobody likes abortions. Abortion foes will be glad to see Planned Parenthood leave, while others take a more realistic view: Without Planned Parenthood, unplanned pregnancies will increase and the demand for abortions will grow as a result.

Planned Parenthood did an excellent job of providing family planning services as well as cancer screenings, well-woman exams, education programs and the treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Services were often provided on a sliding scale.

Planned Parenthood will leave a gap in women’s health care that will be difficult to fill, but the community must try. The anti-abortion Pregnancy Care clinics do a fine job supporting and educating pregnant young women, but they don’t emphasize contraception or provide the full range of health services that women need.

A  women’s health clinic is needed to take over where Planned Parenthood left off. It should include abortion counseling which, like it or not, is a legal option. For people concerned about women’s health on Whidbey Island, a new women’s clinic should be priority number one for 2012.


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