October 3, 1999
ROANOKE, VA.-Something new is afoot in the world of Planned Parenthood. For the first time in the organization's history, an affiliate is offering full adoption services.
Pregnant women walking into Planned Parenthood of Blue Ridge, Inc., in Roanoke, Va., can choose to abort their baby or to place him or her for adoption. Both choices can now be carried out on-site.
Of the 900 Planned Parenthood agencies and 130 affiliates nationwide, Roanoke is the first to move beyond making adoption referrals to outside agencies to providing adoption assistance within its own clinic. The Roanoke affiliate started performing abortions in 1995, and they added adoption services in May of this year through a licensing agreement with the Children's home society of Virginia. Children's Home Society now has an outreach office in the Planed Parenthood facility.
"We've been looking at the possibility of adding adoption services since the 1980's" states David Nova, 38, president and CEO of the Roanoke clinic.
"When we add prenatal services in the spring of next year, we will be the first operationally pro-choice center. We'll have prenatal, abortion and adoption, all under one roof, so that women who come to us, regardless of the choice they make, can immediately the services they need."
Jim Sedlak, founder of Stop Planned Parenthood International, a division of the American Life League Inc., sees this "adoption option" as a public relations smoke screen, and a potentially financially profitable one.
"Planned Parenthood is always looking for an angle to use to say they are not just about abortion," he said in a telephone interview from STOPP's office in Stafford, Va.
"But their adoption referrals are just a drop in the bucket compared to their abortion rate. From a public relations standpoint, offering adoption is a safe thing to do. But even if Planned Parenthood does some good things, it's an organization that's flawed from its very roots and is not worthy of support."
Sedlak also worries that offering adoption may entitle this Planned Parenthood affiliate to receive public monies that would be generated if a "Choose Life" license plate bill passes Virginia next year.
These special plates would cost $25 each. Ten dollars would go to the State of Virginia; the remaining $15 would most likely be distributed to Virginia agencies that promote adoption.
"It seems strange that when that when this license plate became an issue, that Planned Parenthood in Virginia decided to get into the adoption business. It might have been just a coincidence but it's certainly worth noting," Sedlak adds.
On the federal level, if the Adoption Awareness Act passes, federally-funded health clinics such as Planned Parenthood will be obliged to inform clients of adoption. The act introduced in the House of Representatives in July, specifies that agencies will lose their funding under Title X of the Public Health Service Act unless they provide the "adoption option."
Planned Parenthood, which receives $45 million annually from Title X, would be greatly affected if this becomes law. The Adoption Awareness Act would also establish a $7 million a year grant program for adoption training.
Providing adoption referrals is part of Planned Parenthood Federation of America's mission statement. In 1996/97, Planned Parenthood says it made 6,274 referrals nationwide. In 1997/98, that number increased to 9,381. During the same year, Planned Parenthood performed 165,174 abortions and made 47,550 abortion referrals. The Roanoke clinic performs an average 15 abortions a week.
David Nova said he was concerned that many of the women coming to his Roanoke clinic didn't follow through on their adoption referrals. "Many just didn't make it across town", he says. "Also, many women who come to us for pregnancy tests have a very skewed misconception of what adoption is all about. They think that if they choose adoption, the child will be taken away and they won't see the child again until he or she turns up on their doorstep 18 years later wondering why they'd been abandoned. That's just not the case with modern adoptions, especially with open adoption."
Since May, Children's Home of Virginia social workers have counseled about a dozen women at the Planned Parenthood facility. So far there have been no adoptions, but one woman has given birth and her child is in a temporary foster home until the new mother makes her final decision.
According to Sharon McGraw, district supervisor of the statewide, 100 year-old Children's Home Services, her agency is pleased with this partnership. "It gives us the opportunity offer services to women whom we might not otherwise reach," she said.
How About the Motherhood Choice?
Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life said that offering adoption services is always a good thing to do. "This is something that I personally and other pro-life leaders have always challenged the pro-choice movement to do. If you're going to say that you're offering choices to women, offer them real choices, instead of just the choice of abortion."
Nonetheless, he said, "Pro-life people need to understand this philosophical difference: For those who are Pro-choice, the value of the life derives from the chooser. For we who are pro-life, the value of the unborn life derives from the life itself."
Said Pavone, "You can end up with the same result -- an adopted baby -- and that's fine. We rejoice in that result, but we still cannot approve the philosophy that says 'This child only as value if you think it does.' If that's true, then abortion is an equally valid choice. The Holy Father talked about his error of subjectivism in both the Splendor of Truth and the Gospel of Life. Rather than bestowing value by our choice, we recognize the value that is already there. That is respecting truth."
Una McManus writes from Columbia, Maryland