Women’s health organization Planned Parenthood on Wednesday announced plans to construct a $5 million facility in Spokane.
The nonprofit has started a $2 million capital campaign and already has raised $1.2 million toward the project, Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Tiffany Harms said. The facility will replace its existing health center, 123 E. Indiana Ave., and is slated to open in winter 2017, according to the release. It will be built just east of the current health center, which will be torn down once the new one is open.
Major donors included the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund and the Harriet Cheney Cowles Foundation, according to the news release.
Sharon Smith and Don Barbieri pledged $500,000 to the project through their Progressive Fund.
“We really do strongly believe that health care is an important component of people’s ability to be self-sustaining,” Smith said.
She said Planned Parenthood provides basic health care for people who have few to no resources and that “there really is no health care provider that is as accessible and competent as Planned Parenthood.”
Don Barbieri suggested their gift for the new clinic came, in part, as a response to opponents of abortion. Planned Parenthood currently is working to re-establish services in Pullman following an arson in September.
“We are a firm defender of people’s First Amendment rights,” Barbieri said. “But when Pullman’s Planned Parenthood clinic is firebombed and people try to remove others’ rights and use violence, it is completely unacceptable. This is a time when you just simply stand up and say, ‘This is an important, essential part of our community.’”
Stacey and Betsy Cowles released a statement on behalf of the Harriet Cheney Cowles Foundation, pledging $250,000 in honor of their late mother Allison Cowles for her work in women’s health rights.
Allison Cowles, who died in 2010 at age 75, served for a time on Planned Parenthood of the Inland Northwest’s board.
“A woman’s right to choose and to have access to basic quality health care is fundamental to a just society. Allison Cowles worked on the campaign decades ago in this state to affirm a woman’s right to choose well before Roe v. Wade got to the Supreme Court,” their statement said. “Over the subsequent decades, our local Planned Parenthood has done wonderful work as an education resource, as a healthcare provider and as an advocate for women.”
The Cowles family owns Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review. Betsy Cowles is the chairman of the company.
Stacey Cowles, The Spokesman-Review’s publisher, said the contribution should be seen as honoring his mother, who was an early advocate for women’s rights and contraception, not as a political statement.
“I think that’s reading too much into it,” Cowles said. “We support that idea that every child should be a wanted child.”
The plans include construction of nine exam rooms and two surgical suites, to provide services such as cervical cancer screening and abortions. The facility will also include an education center and a community classroom, according to the news release.
Smith was confident Planned Parenthood would meet their $2 million goal.
“Well, $750,000 is a pretty healthy start considering they haven’t even really launched the campaign yet,” she said. “We are confident there are plenty of people who share in our commitment to basic, quality health care.”
“It’s just the most fundamental thing in life,” Barbieri said.
Federal legislators, including Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, had been mulling a suspension of federal taxpayer support of the organization following the release of the videos by a political group opposed to abortion this summer. Those videos claim to show executives discussing compensation for fetal tissue; Planned Parenthood officials say the videos were heavily edited and that the organization doesn’t sell fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood, which says abortion makes up 3 percent of its services, also has released statements saying no federal money goes toward abortions, per a provision in federal law.
At least two protests have been held at the Indiana Avenue location in recent weeks as a result of the videos.