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Mary Nolan spoke Monday at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum.

TIMES PHOTO: PETER WONG - Mary Nolan, left, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, speaks with Lois Pereira after Nolan's talk Monday to members of the Washington County Public Affairs Forum.The chief advocate for Planned Parenthood in Oregon says it will continue to provide birth control and other health services despite an attempt by House Republicans to deny federal funding to the national organization.

But Mary Nolan, a former Democratic state representative, says she also is not predicting what might result from the current congressional and legislative sessions.

"Planned Parenthood is committed to empowering families to determine their own destiny about parenthood and raising children," Nolan said Monday at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum.

"We will find some way to continue that mission. I do not know what that will look like. But right now, we are fighting to make sure that as many people as possible can still have access to reproductive and other preventive services."

Nolan is executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, the state political arm of the organization. Planned Parenthood affiliates run a total of 12 health centers, including clinics in Beaverton, Milwaukie-Oak Grove, and two in Portland.

She has been in her current position about two years, after a couple of years as a vice president of FamilyCare Health Plans.

Nolan said like other providers of services under the Oregon Health Plan — Oregon's version of Medicaid for low-income people — Planned Parenthood is reimbursed by the Oregon Health Authority and does not receive money directly from the federal government.

Although several of the centers provide abortion services, she said, federal money does not pay for them. A restriction dating back to 1976 bars federal funding for virtually all abortions, but Oregon has no comparable ban on state funds.

Asked specifically about the House Republican effort, Nolan replied: "I am optimistic that Congress will not pass the restrictions… I hope that the members of Congress will actually listen to their constituents."

Oregon Planned Parenthood health centers see more than 70,000 patients annually. In addition to federal support via Medicaid, they also rely on private insurance and personal payments.

Nolan said opponents are aiming at the wrong target.

"What they are saying is that … the one organization in the country that is most trusted by patients to provide those services is the one organization that will not be allowed to provide them," she said.

If there are more unplanned pregnancies, she said, the number of abortions also is likely to increase.

Fallback position

Aside from defunding Planned Parenthood, the House Republican plan awaiting a vote in the House would repeal minimum requirements set by President Barack Obama's signature health-care law — known as the Affordable Care Act of 2010 — for coverage of birth control and other preventive services.

But if Congress does pass the plan endorsed by President Donald Trump, Nolan said, Planned Parenthood is among the organizations advocating state legislation (HB 3391) to keep those requirements in place for private insurance offered in Oregon.

"It is more important than it was six months ago for Oregon law to be clear, not retreating — that access to those services will not be taken away from Oregonians," she said.

The state legislation also would extend a variety of health services to undocumented immigrants who are not covered but otherwise would qualify for the Oregon Health Plan.

"Simply not having restrictions in the law does not mean that all people have access" to birth control services and medications," she said.

"The bill says we think there should be equity for all populations in access to that care."

The bill was heard March 15 in the House Health Care Committee.

Nolan herself was in the House from 2001 to 2013, failing in a bid for Portland city commissioner in 2012. She was a founder and president of Naral Pro-Choice Oregon, and led successful campaigns to defeat five statewide ballot measures to restrict or ban abortion.

Century-long effort

Planned Parenthood's roots in Oregon date back to 1916, when Margaret Sanger was arrested in Portland for distributing pamphlets about birth control deemed obscene by the city council. Sanger is the founder of the modern birth control movement and the organizations that evolved into Planned Parenthood.

"Look how far we have come in Oregon," Nolan said. "But I'm a bit sad we are still living under some of these clouds," particularly at the federal level.

Two years ago, Oregon lawmakers passed bills to enable pharmacists to distribute birth control pills without a prescription — that law took effect last year, ahead of a similar law in California — and to require insurers to cover a full 12 months of birth control prescribed by doctors or nurse practitioners.

"We recognize that providing good access to health care … gets Oregon closer to reducing or eliminating unintended pregnancies that are unhealthy for everyone involved," Nolan said.

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Debate in Hillsboro

Planned Parenthood's chief advocate in Oregon says the May 16 election for four Hillsboro School Board seats may affect how teenagers obtain information about birth control.

Eleven candidates are seeking four seats.

In May of last year, the board voted 4-3 against allowing contraceptives to be distributed by the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Clinic to teens at a medical clinic at Century High School.

The vote was along gender lines. The four male members voted no and three females voted yes.

Mary Nolan, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, says the affiliates that provide care present both abstinence and contraceptives as options for sexually active teens.

"We know that an unplanned pregnancy is the single most common factor leading young women to drop out of school," she said Monday (March 20) at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum. "So we believe in accurate information about the full range of options for their lives."

— Peter Wong

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