The head of Planned Parenthood of Maryland said the organization will give up federal aid rather than comply with the Bush administration's revised "gag rule" on abortion counseling.
"We'll just keep doing what we've been doing until the feds knock on our door and tell us to stop. And if that happens, we'll just have to do some major fund raising to cover the loss," Jim Guest, the president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said yesterday.
The local Planned Parenthood's annual budget of $4 million includes $500,000 in federal Title X money. Client fees, private donations and grants account for most of the rest of the budget.
In 1991, the Baltimore-based organization provided 15,000 clients with pregnancy tests, HIV counseling, contraceptive care and abortions at clinics in Baltimore, Towson, Owings Mills, Frederick, Waldorf, Annapolis and Salisbury, spokeswoman Linda Geeson said.
However, only the Howard Street clinic in Baltimore has enough low-income clients to qualify for the Title X funding, which is used exclusively for contraceptives and birth control counseling for the poor.
Mr. Guest called the Bush administration's apparent concession allowing doctors to discuss abortion with patients "insignificant and a sham."
"While doctors perform the abortions themselves, it's the nurse practitioners and other health professionals who do the counseling. So, to say doctors can counsel people but the other workers can't is really conceding nothing at all," he said yesterday.
He also called the gag rule "hypocritical" because, when clinics give up the Title X money, it will "prevent poor women from getting the birth control they need, which will lead to more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions. The Bush administration says it wants fewer abortions, but this rule will just have the opposite effect."
Mr. Guest said that, between the Bush gag rule and the Maryland abortion referendum slated for this November, family planning agencies "are under attack on all fronts."
"This is a defining moment," he said. "Will women, especially low-income women, continue to receive the information they need to help them make decisions about pregnancy, or will that information be denied to them?"