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Donors share why they support new Planned Parenthood facility in Spokane


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By Tracy Simmons

On Thursday evening about 100 Planned Parenthood supporters celebrated the forthcoming construction of the organization’s brand new, 16,000 square-foot, cutting edge reproductive health care facility.

The new building, which will be named the Smith-Barbieri Spokane Health and Community Education Center, is slated to open in 2017 and cost $5 million.

At the event, which included ceremonial pink shovels and pink hard hats, major donors expressed why they contributed to the $2 million capital campaign fund.

“Access to birth control and comprehensive family planning services directly impacts a person’s ability to plan their future and initiate their dreams, both men and women,” said Sharon Smith, of the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund. “It’s a critical service everyone deserves access to.”

She was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was in her early 20s and said she credits Planned Parenthood to her survival, she said. With high health care costs, she said young adults, especially, need the health care services Planned Parenthood provides.

“Non-profit, non-judgmental care, unfortunately, doesn’t always happen in our community,” she said. “Planned Parenthood does nothing except provide good, quality health care with truthful information that helps people make the best decisions about their lives.”

The Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund had pledged $500,000 for the construction of the new Planned Parenthood center.

Rendition of the new Planned Parenthood facility in Spokane/Courtesy Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho
Rendition of the new Planned Parenthood facility in Spokane/Courtesy Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho

Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho reported that the goal is to have $2 million for the construction raised by 2020. So far pledges and donations are sitting at $1.3 million. The rest will be financed with low-interested debt, current investment and operating funds, explained Communications Manager Tiffany Harms.

The Harriet Cheney Cowles Foundation is another major project donor with a $250,000 pledge. Stacy and Betsy Cowles said the donation is in honor of their late mother, Allison Cowles, who once served on the Planned Parenthood of the Inland Northwest’s board. The family own Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review.

Stacey Cowles said his mother sparked his passion about gender equity and abortion rights because she organized and fundraised around education and family health, and worked tirelessly on Referendum 20, which in 1970 legalized abortion in the early months of pregnancy in Washington State.

In a 1984 Planned Parenthood magazine she wrote it was, “Immoral to bring children into the world who are not wanted, well supported and loved in a loving family.”

“We’ve all seen effects of child neglect and abuse across the economic spectrum and it’s not pretty: poor mental health, poor physical health, poverty, addiction, violence and a vicious repetitive cycle that can extend for generations,” Stacey Cowles said. “If choice can elevate one of these perpetual cycles, it stands to reason that society must consider the moral implications of choice in a positive light.”

Stacy (right) and Betsy Cowles (left) speak at a Planned Parenthood groundbreaking ceremony/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS
Stacy (right) and Betsy Cowles (left) speak at a Planned Parenthood groundbreaking ceremony/Tracy Simmons – SpokaneFAVS

He said funding the new center will help extend his mother’s passion to the next generation.

The new center, which will be where the current facility’s parking lot is, will include nine exam rooms, two surgical services suites — which will allow for cervical cancer screening and treatment, colposcopy, ultrasound, abortion, and sterilization — an education center, community classroom, public affairs center, customer care center and administrative headquarters.

The current building, constructed in 1966, has six exam rooms and administrative space. The new facility is expected to increase patient visits by 50 percent.

Although no one protested the ground breaking ceremony, not everyone in the community is pleased with news of the new building.

MariaFernanda Gomez, president of the Gonzaga University Students for Life group told the Gonzaga Bulletin, “I think there are so many better resources that uphold a consistent life ethic,” and urged students seek out an alternative health care resource.

Other local faith-based organizations who have spoken out against Planned Parenthood were unable to comment for this story.

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Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.

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Debbie Selzer
Debbie Selzer
7 years ago

Great coverage. I had not known about this. I like the addition of the video.

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