Activists protest abortion pill at Ashland clinic

Anti-abortion activists protested in front of Ashland's Planned Parenthood clinic Tuesday afternoon, decrying the use of an abortion pill that's been available at the clinic since March.

Mifepristone, formerly known as RU-486, became available at Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon's Ashland and Eugene clinics in early March, said Cynthia Pappas, executive director.

In the first three months of the drug's availability in Ashland and Eugene, 109 women received it, she said.

"It's very sad. Very sad," said Carin Briggs, a medical assistant who works in Ashland and lives in Medford and who attended the protest in her medical scrubs.

About 20 people, including several children, held signs with messages such as, "RU-486 From Your Friends in Communist China," "The RU-486 Holocaust" and "Abortion is Murder" during Tuesday's protest, organized by Jackson County Right to Life.

"This is quite an escalation of the services they offer because they're presenting an abortion service on site," said organizer Bryan Platt, former chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party. "We're saddened that they're going to take more babies' lives and we also think they're guilty of misrepresenting this drug to patients."

Several people driving by the corner of Siskiyou Boulevard and Walker Avenue yelled obscenities at the protestors.

Rosanna Marie Hoch, a Southern Oregon University senior, stopped at the corner to give the anti-abortion protesters her thoughts.

"I felt like I needed to speak for myself and other women who might feel hurt by this protest," she said. "They're judging other people. I am not a murderer for wanting a choice."

Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon's board of directors decided to begin offering the drug in Ashland and Eugene because they felt there was a lack of access to abortion services, due in part to the retirement of a doctor who performed the procedures, Pappas said.

"The reason the board made that decision is there was a lack of access for women, especially in the southern part of the state, because we had a provider retire, and it's a safe option that was not being offered and we felt like women needed to have that choice," she said.

The drug successfully ends 97 in 100 pregnancies, she said.

Mifepristone has been available in Portland for several years, Pappas said.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the drug in 2000. Since then, more than 1 million women have taken mifepristone. The drug must be taken within the first nine weeks of pregnancy.

Pappas said women take the pill at the clinic and then are given another pill to take 24 to 48 hours later. About a week later, they are asked to come to the clinic for a follow-up visit, she said.

According to Oregon Department of Health records, 438 women in Jackson County chose to terminate a pregnancy in 2008, the most recent year for which final data is available. Preliminary calculations from the department indicate that 448 women in the county had an induced abortion in 2009. During the first three months of this year, preliminary records show 97 women chose to terminate a pregnancy in the county.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or

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