Pro-Choice Backers Rally to Planned Parenthood

Article excerpt

The ongoing battle over whether women should have the legal right to choose an abortion is a blessing in disquise.

This is the belief of John Thompson, spokesman for Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma, an affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. in New York.

"The phone has been ringing off the hook with people wanting to volunteer their services," he said. "We're getting a lot of suggestions from talented people."

"Once pro-choice supporters pull together an effective campaign, it will have a lot more political leverage for other pro-children and pro-family issues," he said.

Thompson is confident the pro-choice movement will win and predicts it will mobilize the movement one step further into a new political reality.

The local non-profit organization annually serves 21,500 people with a comprehensive medical education program and 10,000 patients in clinics. It also provides medical and educational services to low-income, high risk patients.

Planned Parenthood has begun distributing petitions supporting keeping abortion safe and legal.

"We're aiming for a million signatures from across the country," he said.

The national organization has already identified 500,000 pro-choice supporters nationwide and hopes to compile the results by the end of summer. About 1.5 million abortions are performed annually, Thompson said.

Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma is in the process of studying the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and the effects on Oklahoma.

Under the ruling of the divided high court, states are free to impose new restrictions on abortions, creating the climate for a flurry of legislative activity in the Oklahoma legislature early next year.

"My concern is that we're studying the ruling and the laws as carefully as we can - but others won't give the same care and will introduce legislation without thinking through the social policy implications.," Thompson said. "Just because the state has the power to introduce legislation doesn't mean it should."

"As of now, the court hasn't given the states a blank check to regulate abortion out of existence," he said.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said in Monday's ruling that the states' right to impose new restrictions on abortion are constitutional since they "do not place a `heavy and unnecessary burden' on a woman's abortion decision."

Thompson said he is not happy with the ruling, because it is turning constitutional issues into political issues.

"The right of privacy is a constitutional issue like freedom of speech or the right to vote," he said. "To turn that right over to politics is a problem."

Nationwide, Planned Parenthood is working for better methods of contraception, Thompson said. But they are at loggerheads with pro-lifers who while denouncing abortion also oppose the most effective methods of birth control, sex education and additional investments in research for contraception.

Planned Parenthood would prefer to be able to put all of its resources into sex education, prenatal care and nutrition programs for children and other family-oriented programs it has always offered, but is restricted by lack of support in preventative programs that seek to reduce unwanted pregnancies, Thompson said.

Thompson said it is often forgotten that abortion is not a preferred choice by anyone, but in most cases is considered the best possible option considering the alternatives. …