New Yakima clinic to expand abortion access in Eastern Washington

The clinic is expected to help accommodate the influx of people who will need Washington abortion services if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Abortion rights rally in Seattle

Demonstrators seen on the steps outside City Hall during a StopTheBans abortion-rights rally in Seattle, May 21, 2019. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Eastern Washington gained its fourth full-service abortion clinic this week.

Cedar River Clinics announced on Tuesday that it would be reopening a clinic in Yakima, where the organization got its start, but has not operated for about a decade. It currently operates three clinics in Western Washington, but previously had a clinic in Yakima for 30 years that closed in 2010. Yakima has one other abortion clinic, which is operated by Planned Parenthood.

Cedar River Clinics cited the leaked Supreme Court draft decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade and the expected influx of people seeking abortion services from other states as the reasons for expanding operations in Eastern Washington.

The clinic will provide full-service abortion care in Eastern Washington, where only three clinics currently provide both onsite surgical and medication abortion, in Yakima, Kennewick and Spokane. All are operated by Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood also operates eight other sites east of the Cascades that solely offer medication abortion.

The new Yakima clinic is opening at the same site where Cedar River Clinics’ previous abortion clinic operated. Abortion care at the new clinic will begin in July, but the clinic will begin taking appointments this week for a variety of health care services.

“We look forward to serving new and existing patients in the clinic and community we were founded in,” said Executive Director Connie Cantrell in a news release. “Due to growing wait times at local clinics, patients from Eastern Washington have been traveling to our clinics in Western Washington since we closed. We heard from our community members in Eastern Washington that they hoped we would reopen. We are so very proud to return to our roots.”

Cedar River Clinics’ Yakima location operated for over 30 years, opening in 1979 as Feminist Women’s Health Center, founded by Beverly Whipple and Deborah Lazaldi. “Their vision was to empower patients and trust them to make their own decisions about pregnancy care, prevention and termination; to promote informed decision‐making; and to ensure that abortion was locally accessible,” said clinic staff in the news release.

In addition to abortion care, the Yakima clinic will provide birth control, routine wellness services and gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary patients through telehealth and in person.

The Cedar River Clinic opening in Yakima this week will provide abortion care. (Mai Hoang/Crosscut)

The clinic’s opening comes at a time when Washington state’s abortion care infrastructure is about to be tested by an anticipated reversal of Roe v. Wade, the proliferation of hospital mergers compromising affecting access to reproductive health care and an amplification of demand for abortion care from out-of-state patients, who already travel to the Pacific Northwest for abortion care. 

The Guttmacher Institute has estimated that after Roe, the number of women of reproductive age whose nearest abortion clinic would be in Washington will increase by up to 385%. Now, one more clinic will be able to accommodate them.

The surge could be especially acute east of the Cascades in Washington, where there are only three full-service abortion clinics offering both medication and surgical abortion in-clinic. The Cedar River Clinic in Yakima had previously been operating as a telehealth site offering medication abortion.

“We wanted to ensure access to reproductive and LGBTQ health care to the people of Eastern Washington closer to home,” said Cantrell in the news release. “With the upcoming SCOTUS decision, it is especially critical now to increase access to the full range of reproductive healthcare. Cedar River Clinics and our staff are committed to serving Washingtonians, and those escaping oppressive state governments, by providing the essential healthcare we are all entitled to.”

This story has been updated to correct outdated information on the number of eastern Washington health centers offering either surgical or medication abortions.

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