When Planned Parenthood opens its new center this Sunday on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, it will face a diverse group of protesters.
Many of the 100 or so expected demonstrators will be African-Americans alleging that plopping new abortion clinics in neighborhoods with large African-American populations is tantamount to black genocide.
"[The new clinic] not only violates the opposing wishes of the neighborhood, but is disrespectful of the black community entirely," says Upper Room Home Church Pastor Isham Harris, whose church is two miles from the new site.
The involvement of African-Americans in the anti-abortion movement has grown nationally with groups such as Issues4Life and King for America Inc., whose founder is Martin Luther King Jr.'s niece, Dr. Alveda King. And since Planned Parenthood began construction on the center at 3727 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., dozens of anti-abortion protesters of different races have regularly demonstrated at the site (see "Days of Their Lives," WW, Oct. 22, 2008).
But Liz Delapoer, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette's local marketing director, counters allegations the healthcare provider targets African-American neighborhoods for abortion services.
Planned Parenthood has 16 centers throughout predominantly white Oregon, including one in Southeast Portland. The new 40,000-square-foot clinic on MLK replaces one that is 11 blocks west. And Delapoer notes that only 5 percent of Planned Parenthood's services are abortion-related.
Delapoer says the new building aims to meet a growing demand for affordable health care that accounts for the other 95 percent of Planned Parenthood's mission. Such services include routine examinations, birth control, educational services, cancer screenings, and STD screenings and treatments.
The new clinic will have more doctors and staff, and twice the number of examination rooms as the current building.
"We believe in helping all individuals regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, everything," Delapoer says. "We want to provide all individuals access to quality, affordable health care."
If a lot of protesters come out on Sunday, Feb. 14, at noon, that's good news in one sense for Planned Parenthood.
The healthcare provider offers a Pledge-a-Protester program in which people can sign up to donate a set amount per protester or per day of picketing that takes place.
Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette has earned hundreds of dollars by running the program during construction at the MLK site, and the program will stay open for pledges through the end of May.