Abortion clinic murders concern new leader of Planned Parenthood Maryland official decries lack of national outrage

November 03, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

The new leader of Planned Parenthood of Maryland Inc. yesterday decried a lack of national revulsion against abortion clinic-related murders in the United States and Canada.

"There are now seven dead. It continues to surprise me that the whole country isn't outraged by the violence," said Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti, president and CEO of the 71-year-old health services agency.

The most recent killing was the Oct. 23 fatal shooting in his Amherst, N.Y., home of Dr. Barnett A. Slepian, a gynecologist who performed abortions and assisted in hundreds of births. He was the sixth person killed since the murder of Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Fla., five years ago.

"People who proclaim they are pro-life celebrate this most recent murder. This is no way for a country to settle its differences," said Geidner-Antoniotti.

"For me as a Christian, these acts are anathema. For a CEO, it raises concerns on how to continue to protect anyone who comes for help into our buildings."

A native of Ohio, Geidner-Antoniotti directed the Mahoning Valley Planned Parenthood agency in Youngstown from 1990 to 1997, serving 9,000 clients.

In Maryland, she runs a $5.3 million agency that offers reproductive and other health services at the agency's seven centers in Baltimore, Towson, Owings Mills, Annapolis, Frederick, Waldorf and Salisbury. Many clients are poor. Most are women; some are men.

Geidner-Antoniotti succeeds the interim president, Patricia Gongloff, who directs the day-to-day operations of the seven clinics.

Before assuming her job Sept. 8, Geidner-Antoniotti led Planned Parenthood's "National Emergency Contraceptive Public Awareness Campaign," urging more understanding of a largely unknown but proven emergency contraception.

"EC is the best-kept secret," she said. "Many women and even doctors don't know about it." Although it is called the "morning after pill," EC is actually higher doses of birth control pills taken after intercourse to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

Taken within 72 hours of intercourse, EC has "an effectiveness rate of 98.4 percent," Geidner-Antoniotti said.

Designed three decades ago for rape victims, EC today is used in other emergencies as well, Geidner-Antoniotti said. She noted reasons couples have used it: "The condom broke. I started my pack of pills two days late. We were caught in the heat of the moment and didn't think about protection. We were drunk."

In her new role, Geidner-Antoniotti is introducing two EC-related initiatives. "Dial EC" is a phone service to provide Planned Parenthood's 15,000 Maryland clients with emergency contraceptive information and prescriptions. "EC to Go" is a take-home prescription for future use.

EC is not for casual use, stressed Geidner-Antoniotti. There are disadvantages: It offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections, and it can cause nausea, vomiting and, in rare cases, "blood clot complications," she said.

Although abortions are offered at Planned Parenthood's Baltimore and Annapolis health centers, that is only one part of the agency's services. "We do much more in birth control than abortions," said Geidner-Antoniotti. Planned Parenthood also devotes much of its effort to routine health services and to prevention of breast cancer, cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections and human immunodeficiency virus, in addition to prevention of unwanted pregnancies.

Reproductive self-determination remains a major goal of the agency that began business under Dr. Bessie L. Moses in Baltimore in 1927 as the Bureau of Contraceptive Advice.

"Many women come to us to get a pregnancy test because they have had a scare," Geidner-Antoniotti said. "If it's negative, we counsel them. If it's positive, we explain three options: pre-natal care, adoption and abortion services.

For more information from the nearest Planned Parenthood office , call 1-800-230-PLAN.

Pub Date: 11/03/98

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