Clinics vow 'gag rule' won't stop them

November 21, 1991|By Jonathan Bor

Officials at Maryland's family planning clinics said yesterday that they will find ways to provide abortion counseling to women who want it, despite federal regulations that seek to "gag" them from doing so.

James Guest, president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said the organization will first explore last-ditch legal and legislative options in an effort to block the regulations from taking effect. If that fails, the group will simply give up its $516,000 federal grant so that it can continue providing services without federal interference.

Tuesday, President Bush vetoed a measure that would have lifted rules barring abortion counseling at family planning clinics that receive federal funds, and the House failed to override his action.

"It's government intrusion," Mr. Guest said of the rules. "It's mandatory censorship of the doctor-patient relationship. It's discrimination against poor women. It's offensive, outrageous. We will not be gagged."

Giving up the grant, which accounts for 13 percent of the organization's budget, would force Planned Parenthood to "raise money from people who support a woman's access to information," Mr. Guest said.

In any case, he said, he would rather cut services than live with the federal restrictions.

Anna Osztreicher, a nurse practitioner who administers a city clinic in West Baltimore, said pregnant women who want information about abortion might be referred to a nearby pediatric clinic that does not receive federal funds.

But she said many teen-agers who learn they are pregnant want abortions, not counseling.

"Usually, the teen-agers would say something like, 'If I have to carry this pregnancy through, I'm going to kill myself. Any way to stop this pregnancy?' " Ms. Osztreicher said. The clinic tells them to go to the University of Maryland Medical Center, she said. Her clinic, the Western Center for Women's Health Care, is on the grounds of the hospital.

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