Clinic to offer Interior's only abortion services

Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Planned Parenthood of Alaska plans to open a clinic in Fairbanks next year whose services would include abortion, a procedure not available in the Interior since 1999.

Abortion opponents, however, are urging the pending landlord to break the lease at the Northern Lights Medical Center.

Services such as gynecological exams, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and treatment for infections also will be offered at the clinic. Treatment for men, such as non-scalpel vasectomies, is planned as well.

''We want to be a comprehensive clinic,'' Anna Franks, executive director of Anchorage-based Planned Parenthood of Alaska, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''We want to offer men and women all of their options, not just one.''

The opening in Fairbanks has sparked an outcry by the anti-abortion group Interior Right to Life.

''There are so many good options out there that don't bring grief and regret and sorrow,'' said Debbie Joslin, a supporter of the group.

Opponents have contacted tenants at the building to alert them of the new clinic and recommend they move.

Kevin Staudt, manager of the medical office building, said he has received a number of calls and that he passes them on to his supervisor.

''It's clearly a very polarizing issue. We expected to hear from both sides,'' Staudt said.

Elective abortions stopped being offered in the region when the sole doctor who offered the procedure retired and no other physician filled the void.

Since then, women in the Interior and Northern Alaska have had to travel to Anchorage or Outside to have an abortion. Planned Parenthood has helped offset some of the travel costs.

Planned Parenthood conducted an assessment of reproductive health needs in Fairbanks, then started raising money to open the clinic. Money has come from local and statewide donors and private foundations Outside, Franks said.

''There is definitely a need,'' said Jennifer Schmidt, a member of the Coalition for Choice, an organization whose aim is to protect legalized abortion. ''Women don't like to have to leave town to get their health care. They want to receive their health care close to family and support systems.

Planned Parenthood, with clinics in Anchorage, Sitka and Soldotna, has had a presence in Fairbanks for a while. A local number is listed in the Alaska Communications Systems telephone book under ''Abortion Services.'' Franks said a nurse answers the line and offers counseling, referrals and the day-after pill, which is a high dose of birth control pills that women take in the first few days after sexual intercourse if they fear pregnancy.

A Planned Parenthood reproductive health outreach educator in Fairbanks has already been hired and started working, Franks said.

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