Planned Parenthood in limbo

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— In 2002, several Planned Parenthood health centers in Colorado that depend on state subsidies will lose family planning funding.

The state plans to withhold $381,956 from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in response to an audit by a private accounting firm that said the organization financially supports an affiliate that provides abortions.

Unlike many rural areas in the state that will experience the loss of state funding, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Steamboat Springs will not be affected.

The clinic first received federal funding last year, after a few years of operating without state or federal money.

That funding, however, could be in jeopardy, said Amy Dickson, manager of the Steamboat Springs Planned Parenthood clinic.

"We are unclear whether we will be getting federal funding this year," Dickson said.

The center, which opened in the late 1970s, lost its state funding a few years ago when it was determined the need for funding at other areas in the state was greater.

The money was not available to adequately fund every clinic in the state, she said.

With federal funding, the Steamboat Springs clinic was able to open an office in Oak Creek last spring.

Women can currently visit the South Routt office the first and third Tuesday of every month, where one physician's assistant and one staff member will be on hand to help them.

"If we don't get the funding, we have a concern for funding (the office) out there, but we are going to try our best to keep it open," Dickson said.

The Steamboat Springs clinic serves 330 women throughout Routt County.

Dickson said she is concerned about the women who depend on Planned Parenthood's services in other areas of the state.

"Even though we aren't as affected as the other clinics, I think everyone should know and it should be a concern," she said.

The clinic has maintained a certain level of care through private donations, fund-raisers and small fees for medical services, which include basic blood work and cancer and cholesterol screenings.

Donations are always welcome, she said.

Fees are kept as low as possible to ensure that all women can afford its services, she said.

"We are always willing to work with people," Dickson said. "We never deny service."

Many people know about the clinic on 11th Street, she said, but community awareness can always improve.

"It's really nice to have the support, but on a whole there needs to be a lot of education about what services are offered," she said.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains was forced to create a separate entity in order to receive state funding after Gov. Bill Owens issued an order in 1999 prohibiting state funding of any groups affiliated with abortion.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Services Corp. formed as a result and runs abortion clinics while the original organization, to which the Steamboat office belongs, offers health services that include birth control and cancer screening.

Some people have questioned the validity of the audit, which was handled by private rather than state auditors.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains decided not to pursue legal action against the state because it wants to focus its energy and resources on the needs of women who will be affected by the loss of state funding to their local clinics, said Abby Erickson, who works in the organization's public relations department.

"It's not a matter of whether we think we would win or lose at this point," Erickson said.

"We can't focus on a costly legal battle. What we really want to focus on is how do we make sure that women still receive care."

Past audits show that Planned Parenthood has never allocated funds to pay directly or indirectly for abortions, she said.

"It looks a lot like political bullying at the expense of thousands of women," she said.

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