Copyright 2000 P.G. Publishing Co.
September 11, 2000, Monday, SOONER EDITION
SECTION: LIFESTYLE, Pg. B-2, BREAKFAST WITH...
LENGTH: 695 words
Gloria Feldt is
president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the country's oldest and
largest reproductive health care and advocacy organization, with more than 900
health centers. Feldt joined Planned Parenthood in 1974 as head of the Odessa,
Texas, affiliate, eventually becoming national president in 1996. Vanity Fair
recently named Feldt one of America's Top 200 Women Leaders, Legends and
Trailblazers. She will be in Pittsburgh Thursday to address Planned Parenthood
of Western Pennsylvania's 70th Anniversary luncheon. Call 412-434-8957.
Q. After 84 years, is Planned Parenthood still controversial? A. Planned
Parenthood is an extraordinarily well regarded American institution. Almost
everyone has heard of Planned Parenthood, and of those, 70 percent have highly
favorable opinions, about 15 percent have negative opinions and there a few in
the middle. While there are always some people out there screaming and yelling,
the fact of the matter is Planned Parenthood is mainstream America. Ninety
percent of Americans now support access to family planning, and family planning
and Planned Parenthood are almost synonymous.
Q. What damage has the
religious right done to Planned Parenthood?
A. I think the hard-line
religious political extremists have done a great deal of damage to American
women's ability to get family planning and reproductive health care. They have
polarized the issue by being so doctrinaire, so hard-line. If they really wanted
to prevent abortions, their time would be better spent working with us to
provide family planning and education than by carrying picket signs.
What stance is your political action committee taking on the upcoming
A. We're not endorsing in the presidential race
-- it's an organizational policy. But for the first time in its 84-year-history,
Planned Parenthood is doing voter education on where the presidential candidates
stand on family planning, abortion and sex education. We are taking that
dramatic step this year because the stakes for women are so high, and we have no
more margin for loss. We have lost so much in access and we have gained so
little in making services available that we decided we have a moral obligation
to speak up. We are particularly aiming to inform those compassionate,
"conservative" women, moderate Republican and independent women, because they
can turn this election one way or the other and choice is an issue that will
determine their vote.
Q. Planned Parenthood has been an advocate of
contraceptive equality. Has there been any progress?
We are working on legislation in Congress -- the Equity in Prescription
Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act. That bill has not
been passed into law yet, but we have been successful in getting
contraceptive coverage for federal employees, and that is the
largest health insurance plan in the country, and one that is
often used as a model. It's a simple matter of gender equity. Birth control
bills and other contraceptive measures are the most frequent
prescriptions that women have. More insurance plans cover
Viagra than birth control pills.
Q. Have any states succeeded in
withdrawing funding because of abortion?
A. They have tried in many
creative ways, but thus far I think Planned Parenthood has been very successful
in remaining a part of the provider network in any given state. One thing
Planned Parenthood will not do is compromise our fundamental principles. We will
not be bought. So whenever a government body restricts our ability to give a
patient full and complete information about all their options, we would consider
that unethical medical care and we would choose not to participate.
How much of a threat is there?
A. It's a constant battle, both at the
federal level and state by state. But it's a battle we take on enthusiastically
because we know how much these services are needed. As Thomas Jefferson said,
eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. As long as we're all active in making
our voices heard, we will be able to provide services. The minute we stop, we
will lose those services.
MARYLYNN URICCHIO'S SEEN
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LOAD-DATE: September 11, 2000