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Orange County official considers shifting Planned Parenthood funds to an antiabortion group

March 14, 2009|Tami Abdollah

After voting to suspend an Orange County education contract with Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions, a county supervisor is considering whether the money should go instead to a group that describes itself as a "pro-life ministry" and uses ultrasound viewings and biblical material to counsel women.

"I can't be an advocate of what Planned Parenthood is," Supervisor Bill Campbell said. "Most organizations try to explain to the women every option there is available, and there's a nuance to these explanations, and that would be protecting the health of the mother and the child."

To that end, Campbell is looking at Birth Choice Health Clinics as an option. Birth Choice is based in Santa Ana and was founded by Kathleen Eaton, its chief executive, about 26 years ago after she had an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic, she said.

Eaton said she spoke with staffers in Campbell's office Wednesday about possibly taking on the county contract for health education. She said they set up a meeting for April 6 to discuss the issue.

Birth Choice's "Teen Integrity" program educates teens on "the importance of building satisfying and mature relationships free from sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy and heartache, by promoting abstinence until marriage," according to its website.

Eaton said the program teaches about contraception but is an "abstinence-based" program.

Eaton said that she was deeply affected by her own decision to have an abortion and that the experience spurred her to found Birth Choices.

"I was devastated, and I said, 'I just feel like there has to be something more, to take a step back and think about,' " Eaton said. "I can tell you, there's not a day in my life I don't think about it. I have four children now; I could have five, and I could have done it."

Tuesday's unanimous vote to suspend a $291,788 education grant with Planned Parenthood followed hours of impassioned public testimony, primarily in favor of continuing the contract.

Ultimately, most supervisors cited moral or religious reasons to vote against continuing the contract.

None of the money is used to fund abortions, said Jon Dunn, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood for Orange and San Bernardino counties.

The health education contract was approved last year through a $7.5-million agreement with the Orange County Coalition of Community Clinics and funded through tobacco settlement revenue.

The funding, first put aside under Measure H in 2000, has been renewed annually since 2001.

Supervisor John Moorlach, who put the issue on the agenda Tuesday, spoke strongly against supporting Planned Parenthood, and he questioned whether sex education, which is not specifically mentioned in Measure H, is an appropriate use of the money anyway.

"It doesn't say one word about education . . . and now they've gotten it, and now it's an entitlement," Moorlach said.

Planned Parenthood in Orange County has used the contract money to provide health education to dozens of groups including teens and pre-teens at Juvenile Hall, Irvine High School, St. Mary's All Angels School and the Santa Ana Youth Council.

Much of Birth Choice's website references God, Jesus and Christianity. Eaton, who said she is a Catholic, said the program offers both faith-based and non-faith-based education programs.

"When you look at choice, one of those choices is having a baby, and I think we've lost that in this society," she said.

"They come to find out . . . is it a baby? If you go to Planned Parenthood, the answer to that is no, but we believe it is a baby."

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tami.abdollah@latimes.com

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