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Originally published Friday, February 2, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Nicole Brodeur

Less of a choice

No, they said, we'd rather you didn't come over, even if it is to pay your respects. The final day at Aradia Women's Health Clinic in Seattle...

Seattle Times staff columnist

No, they said, we'd rather you didn't come over, even if it is to pay your respects.

The final day at Aradia Women's Health Clinic in Seattle Wednesday had turned out to be a rough one. Privacy was requested; the staffers wanted to mourn. So, too, should everyone who considers women's health and the right to choose as necessary as oxygen.

The shuttering of the First Hill clinic this week means there is one less place in Seattle for women to get abortions. That should make abortion opponents happy.

But it also means that there is one less place for women to receive the kind of health care that could prevent those unwanted pregnancies — and the abortions that no one wishes on anyone.

When it opened in 1972, Aradia was the first in the area to offer women's reproductive services, and one of the first in the country to follow a feminist model: health care by women, for women. (Hence the name: Aradia was the Greek goddess of the healing arts.)

Some 60,000 women passed through the doors over the years to receive treatment, counseling and compassion.

Over time, the clinic became a strong voice in the battle to de-stigmatize the right to choose.

"Inside the clinic, there were services, and outside, we advocated and educated the community on women's rights," said Marcy Bloom, who led Aradia for 18 years before stepping down last May. (She is now writing a book and fundraising for a reproductive-rights group in Mexico.)

Many Aradia clients will be absorbed by Aurora Medical Services, whose medical director, Deborah Oyer, used to hold the same job at Aradia.

"I don't see the closing as an anti-abortion victory as much as a nod to the success of birth-control methods," Oyer said.

She's right. In 1983, 26,560 induced abortions were performed in Washington, according to the state Department of Health. In 2005, that number decreased to 24,162.

Still, the Aradia closing is "a hard thing," Oyer said. "They have a reputation for being very patient-focused."

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And those patients needed Aradia; some 80 percent were low-income. But the state reimbursements for their care weren't enough to keep Aradia afloat.

So while it was a blessing that Aradia was there for them, it was a bit of a curse, too.

Still, there is much to celebrate, Bloom said. Aradia leaves a legacy of changing people's view of women's reproductive health.

"Women are seen more as moral and ethical decision makers, making the right choices for their lives and their destinies," she said.

There is still much to be done, here and elsewhere. Some 68,000 women in the developing world die every year from unsafe abortions.

"And why?" Bloom asked. "We have the resources, we have the technology."

I wish I had a solid answer. (The Gates Foundation?)

For now, I thank Aradia for its work for women's bodies, and women's rights.

We will take it from here. We have no choice.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

Rest well, Molly Ivins. You earned it.

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About Nicole Brodeur

My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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