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The front entrance of Eugene's Planned Parenthood location which has remained open to help patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. (Maddie Stellingwerf/Emerald)

As Oregon nears one year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many services have been modified or canceled. Planned Parenthood is not one of them and continues to offer healthcare and sexual education opportunities, while managing the effects of COVID-19 in the state.

Lisa Gardner, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon, said in a statement to the Emerald that PPSO will continue to keep their doors open, no matter what, and that they will provide healthcare and sexual education for the community “today and always.” 

Gardner said PPSO adapted to safety precautions within days, establishing their new telemedicine program so they could provide care to their patients while also keeping them safe. Telemedicine through PPSO “allows patients to access high-quality, affordable health care services by phone and/or through a private and secure video conferencing platform that connects them with one of our trusted care teams,” according to PPSO’s website.

Some of the services available through telemedicine include STI testing and treatment, UTI treatment, birth control and emergency contraceptives, medication, abortions and all-options counseling.

“Telehealth also allowed us to expand access into rural communities and for those with transportation barriers by bringing healthcare directly to them through mobile devices,” Gardner said.

In addition to adapting the services offered in their clinics to be offered via telemedicine, PPSO has created a variety of virtual sexual education courses. Over the summer they hosted their annual Sex Ed Bootcamp — a course meant to help teachers and other professionals educate students and communicate information on the topic of sex — virtually.

Planned Parenthood has also continued to offer volunteering opportunities throughout the pandemic. Student volunteer and junior at the UO, Kat Abrams, participated in a political fellowship with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon in 2019 — the political arm of PPSO — which taught her how to politically advocate for Planned Parenthood and expand reproductive healthcare in her community.

PPAO aims to support PPSO “by advocating for public policy that will enhance and protect reproductive health care; by building support and accountability among elected officials in Oregon; and by engaging and motivating the public,” according to its website.

Abrams has been able to continue volunteering throughout the pandemic because Planned Parenthood created remote volunteer opportunities, like phone banking to get out the vote during election season and attending Zoom town hall meetings with PPAO-endorsed candidates running for office.

“Volunteering remotely is definitely more difficult, but Planned Parenthood has created an amazing space where I feel comfortable and motivated to keep volunteering and fighting to protect reproductive freedom,” Abrams said.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Gardner said, “This next year, we will strengthen our resolve to improve health outcomes in our communities, to be the leader in reproductive healthcare and sexuality education in our state and to work in coalition to dismantle institutional oppression and systemic racism."