FAIRBANKS - Abortions are being offered in Fairbanks for the first time in more than three years. The opening of a Planned Parenthood of Alaska clinic has drawn protests and a boycott.
Women from the Fairbanks area have had to travel out of town for the procedure since 1999 when the sole abortion provider retired.
"Women should have a right to a choice," said Patrick McNamara, office manager and health educator for Planned Parenthood.
"That's how the law is written. We are offering it (abortion) because there is a need for it in the community," McNamara told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Abortion opponents started to protest the clinic late last year with a letter-writing campaign and calls to the clinic's landlord and fellow tenants in The Northern Lights Medical Center, where the clinic is located. They've organized a boycott of all businesses in the medical center and have asked the landlord to break the clinic's lease.
Opponents also brought to Alaska one of the nation's top Planned Parenthood opponents for speaking appearances. Since the beginning of February, anti-abortion activists have been picketing outside the medical center. Ken Spiers, a member of Alaska Right To Life-Interior, said they don't plan to stop.
"We want people to know the facts about Planned Parenthood," Spiers said. "Their philosophy is anti-family."
McNamara said clinic opponents misunderstand the aim of Planned Parenthood.
"They think we're saying, 'OK, you can have as much sex as you want and don't use protection. And if you get pregnant, just come back to us,' " he said.
McNamara said the group's main purpose is to educate people about reproductive health.
Private, in-state donations and a $250,000 grant from an anonymous Outside donor paid to establish the clinic. The clinic offers general reproductive health care for men and women, including gynecological exams, treatment for infections and procedures such as nonscalpel vasectomies.
Abortion services make up about 5 percent of what the clinic will do, administrators say. They anticipate providing between 300 and 400 abortions a year, based on information from Fairbanks' former abortion provider and from providers in Anchorage who have been seeing Fairbanks patients.
Spiers said anti-abortion protests have ranged in size from two or three to as many as 60. Abortion supporters have come out as well.
None of the businesses in the center said they plans to move because of the clinic or the controversy.
Pressure from opponents is why the Fairbanks Clinic stopped offering abortions in 1989 and why no other Fairbanks area doctors have done elective abortions since 1999.