American Telephone & Telegraph Co. Chairman Robert Allen today defended the telecommunications giant's decision to end funding of a Planned Parenthood program under pressure from angry shareholders and users.
"Much to our regret, Planned Parenthood has raised the level of political advocacy," Allen told about 2,500 shareholders attending the company's 105th annual meeting at the Los Angeles Convention Center. "As a result, AT&T has become tainted and tarnished in the eyes of its constituents because of this association."
AT&T recently decided to end its 25-year-old, $50,000-a-year support of a program of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America after some conservative shareholders and users flooded the company with letters and calls saying the funding amounted to supporting abortion.
In New York, where AT&T is based, City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman on Tuesday protested the company's decision to end the program. She said she hopes that the New York City Employees' Retirement System, which holds 3 million AT&T shares, will use its clout to have the company reverse its stand. The retirement fund is one of AT&T's largest single shareholders.
Allen also deplored an advertisement in the Los Angeles Times saying, "Caving in to extremists, AT&T hangs up on Planned Parenthood."
As Allen outlined the company's business strategy, about 50 activists belonging to Planned Parenthood and to anti-abortion movements quietly demonstrated in front of the Convention Center.
Meanwhile, AT&T said today its first-quarter profit rose 12.5% on the strength of improved long-distance revenue and higher equipment sales.
AT&T said it earned $668 million, or 62 cents a share, compared with $594 million, or 55 cents a share, in the first three months of 1989. Revenue totaled $8.89 billion, up 2.7% from $8.66 billion.