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Planned Parenthood Oregon leaders plan to dissolve political arm, sparking concerns about advocacy


PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The new leaders of Oregon’s two Planned Parenthood affiliates want to dissolve the political arm of their organization to focus more on providing health care, a move that has sparked inner turmoil and opposition from advocates concerned about the future of reproductive rights in a pivotal election year.

Sara Kennedy, the new head of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, and Amy Handler, who oversees Planned Parenthood Southwestern Oregon, sent a letter last week to Planned Parenthood Advocacy of Oregon, the lobbying group that engages in political campaigns on the affiliates’ behalf, saying they planned to dissolve it, OPB reported.

In their letter, they said they wanted to focus more on “health care and advocating for the needs of the Planned Parenthood affiliates and their patients.”

“We are not dissolving our commitment to advocacy in Oregon,” they wrote. “Instead, we want to realign Planned Parenthood’s advocacy with our critical mission of delivering quality, equitable, and accessible sexual and reproductive health care.”

The affiliates also plan to focus more on reimbursement rates for providers to help them keep their doors open, spokesperson Kristi Scdoris said.

Oregon’s two Planned Parenthood affiliates provide reproductive health care, including abortion access. They don’t engage in political lobbying or campaigns, but they do fund the full budget, apart from grants, of the political advocacy arm, sending it over $700,000 every year, according to Scdoris.

Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, which operates clinics in the Portland metro area and elsewhere in the state, earns about $36 million in annual revenue, with total expenses around $31 million, according to its 2022-23 financial impact report.

OPB reported that board members of Planned Parenthood Advocacy of Oregon, the advocacy arm, responded in their own letter, saying they’re concerned about being unable to meaningfully impact political campaigns in a major election year.

“And now, at what is potentially the most critical time for abortion rights that this country has ever seen, this short-sighted plan to force dissolution over a matter of days would leave Oregon, formerly a national leader in this space, with zero abortion rights advocacy organizations,” they wrote.

The letter mentions the group’s role in advocating for the passage of a 2017 state law that codified the right to have an abortion, and its work opposing a 2018 ballot measure that would have prohibited public funds from being spent on abortions in many cases, according to OPB.

Oregon’s U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle said she signed on to a letter along with 100 other people urging the two leaders to reconsider, OPB reported.

“Why the leadership of the two Planned Parenthood health care clinics decided to eliminate the advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood in Oregon without any process, any partnership or any transparency five months before the most consequential election of our lifetime when reproductive health care is on the ballot is baffling to me,” Hoyle said.

OPB reported that neither Kennedy nor Handler returned its calls for comment.

Article Topic Follows: AP - Oregon-Northwest

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