PASCO — It was a quiet afternoon outside the new Planned Parenthood building in Pasco on Thursday with no traces of the controversy in which the reproductive health clinic was born.
Clinic officials beamed as they led tours through the lobby, patient exam rooms, lab and administrative offices -- all painted in warm tans and sages intended to create a friendly environment.
"This clinic has been a long time coming," said Anna Franks, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho. "We're excited to offer services locally."
The proposal to bring a Planned Parenthood clinic to Pasco met vehement opposition from some church groups and abortion foes, as well as some concerned parents who worried about the clinic's proximity to Mark Twain Elementary School.
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About 200 people overflowed a city planning commission meeting in 2009 to plead with the city to deny a special permit allowing the clinic to operate in a former real estate office on Court Street.
Opponents delivered impassioned speeches against abortion, despite Planned Parenthood officials insisting no abortions would be performed at the new clinic.
Opponents also argued protesters at the clinic might even endanger the elementary school's students.
The planning commission recommended against granting the permit, but the Pasco City Council in December went against the commission and allowed the clinic to open.
Franks said the nonprofit invested about $1.1 million to buy and renovate the building to get it ready for patients.
Brian Griffin, community organizer for the regional Planned Parenthood organization, said the clinic started seeing a limited group of patients -- those with existing contraceptive prescriptions who needed refills -- just after Labor Day, then opened to all patients within the past two weeks.
The clinic provides a range of reproductive health services, including annual exams for women, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, vasectomies, Gardasil vaccinations, HIV testing and counseling, contraception and other services.
Planned Parenthood also provides education about reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections, family planning and adoption referrals.
Franks said she hopes the new Pasco clinic will help reduce the high rates of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections in Franklin County, which ranks among the highest in the state for teen pregnancies and the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia.
Planned Parenthood previously operated a clinic in Pasco, but it closed in 1991 when services were consolidated in Kennewick.
The new building in Pasco also will house a regional call center and billing office.
Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org