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Clinics Quit Taking Federal Money After Court Ruling With AM-Scotus-Abortion, Bjt

May 24, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ The family planning clinic that lost its challenge to a federal ban on abortion counseling said Thursday it will quit taking federal money rather than keep silent about women’s legal options. Clinics around the country quickly followed suit.

″I am being asked to be ... a puppet for the government, rather than a professional with a code of ethics about how I counsel human beings,″ said Jeannine Michael, director of Planned Parenthood’s Bronx clinic.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday that clinics using federal funds cannot discuss abortion with their clients.

Catherine Moore, a Planned Parenthood official in Utah, complained: ″It’s like having the right to vote, but we’re not going to tell you where the elections are, and when.″

Anti-abortion groups welcomed the ruling as a step toward reversing the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in 1973.

″It can no longer be presumed by the abortion industry that the nation’s highest court is in their pocket,″ said Arlene Champoux of Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

But Faye Wattleton, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said she expects Congress will enact legislation overturning the decision. She also said her organization’s network of clinics would continue to counsel on abortion.

A recent poll showed that 44 percent of Americans personally believe abortion is wrong and 46 percent believe it isn’t, ″NBC Nightly News″ reported Thursday. The NBC-Wall Street Journal poll taken May 10-14 also showed a majority think abortion should be legal, by 60 percent to 31 percent.

The poll, by Teeter & Hart, questioned 1,508 adults and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Thursday’s decision did not directly alter Roe vs. Wade. The court upheld regulations issued by the Reagan administration that say federally funded clinics may not discuss abortion with pregnant women or tell them where to get one.

The regulations were challenged by the city and state of New York and by Dr. Irving Rust, medical director of a Planned Parenthood family planning clinic in the city’s South Bronx neighborhood.

The 1988 ban had not been enforced pending resolution of legal challenges. Now it can be enforced.

The federal government funds about 4,000 clinics serving more than 4 million low-income women each year.

Michael said abandoning federal funds will cost the clinic about $450,000 a year, or 27 percent of its budget. She said she hoped for private donations to make up the difference.

One clinic patron who disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling said she supported the clinic’s decision to quit taking federal funds, even though it may lead to service cuts.

″We come here because we need help,″ said Brenda Alston, 29. ″There’s no need in coming if you can’t talk about the things you want to talk about.″

Clinics elsewhere were debating whether to follow the Bronx clinic’s lead.

Jill June, head of the Iowa’s Planned Parenthood affiliate, said the agency will reject $500,000 in federal funding rather than stop halt abortion counselings at its 17 clinics.

″Our principles are not for sale,″ she said, adding that federal funds provide slightly less than 10 percent of the group’s budget.

Pam Dooley, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Detroit, said she’ll drop $76,000 in federal funds, about 6 percent of the organization’s budget.

Planned Parenthood in the Chicago area planned to decide by the end of this week whether to reject $400,000 in federal funds for its five clinics, said spokeswoman Sara Knaub.

The director of Planned Parenthood of Central Washington called the high court ruling an attack on free speech.

″We will not stop counseling,″ said Gwen Chaplin, whose organization gets $408,000, or 26 percent of its funding, from the federal government.

″Our patients will continue to receive accurate and complete answers to questions about their health care and medical treatment,″ even if it means loss of federal funds, Ms. Chaplin said.

In anticipation of the ruling, Planned Parenthood of Utah drafted an alternative budget that does not contain about $500,000 in federal funding. Its overall 1990 budget was $1.6 million, Moore said.

Dinah Farrington, the executive director of Indiana’s Planned Parenthood, said the ruling could force clinics to withhold life-saving information.

″The really dreadful part of this is, if a woman had an ectopic pregnancy, which would be life-threatening, you couldn’t tell her about abortion,″ she said. ″All you could do is send her to an emergency room.″

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Michigan, said the federal regulations could force doctors to break the law by keeping silent.

″It is a restriction on the free speech of doctors,″ he said. ″If the pregnancy is health-endangering and abortion may be advised, the doctor cannot say that. That is limiting the information given women and (is) mandated medical malpractice.″

Alexander Sanger, grandson of Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, and president of the New York chapter, said the ruling supported a double standard in U.S. medical care.

″Women who have enough money to go to private doctors will continue to have access to honest, unbiased professional medical care,″ he said. ″Women who don’t have money will not.″

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