(CNSNews.com) - An abortion rights group is using a new approach to fund its activities -- a cell phone plan allowing people to support its cause while making calls.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the nation's largest provider of abortions, is offering the plan through Working Assets, a communications and credit card company.
Working Assets donates 10 percent of the phone profits to Planned Parenthood -- and to more than 40 other mostly liberal non-profit groups -- in a bid to "build a world that is more just, humane, and environmentally sustainable."
The company offers wireless, long-distance phone and credit cards services that enable customers to donate to a cause while doing necessary everyday things like making calls or paying for purchases by credit card.
"Planned Parenthood Wireless" subscribers will receive normal wireless phone service and, along with their bill each month, information on how to get "politically involved."
The service also allows free calls to other phones within the network, and the company will even buy out new subscribers' existing cell plans, paying up to $175 dollars.
The promotion comes on the heels of Planned Parenthood's efforts to develop a "mobile activism" network which began with the release of SMS text messaging alerts for its members to rally supporters on urgent issues.
Attempts over three days to get comment from Planned Parenthood were unsuccessful, but in a statement, the organization said the plan was aimed at "transforming a simple phone call into a personal act of support."
"Planned Parenthood members care passionately about women's reproductive health and rights," PPFA President Cecile Richards said in the statement. "Now they have a smart, simple way to support our work and express that passion with every phone call they make, through a wireless service provider that cares."
'Targeting the youth market'
Jim Sedlak of the non-profit pro-life group American Life League told Cybercast News Service the initiative "is right in line with Planned Parenthood's business."
Sedlak said 70 percent of the group's "customers" are 24 years old or younger, and 27 percent are teenagers - the main cell phone market.
"They are trying to reach out to their main business with these cell phone plans," he said. "A lot of people think that Planned Parenthood provides healthcare for poor women, but this offer of cell plans shows that this is not so.
"What they do is concentrate their services on young high school and college girls who will have the funds to be able to afford these devices and spread Planned Parenthood's message of free sex and abortion," Sedlak added.
Sedlak said the new program may reflect a concern among abortion rights groups that they are losing support among younger Americans.
"Most youth in this country are pro-life, and Planned Parenthood is losing support among that market, and that's probably why they are starting this new effort to reach out to the youth market," he said.
In a Gallup youth survey poll in 2003, 72 percent of teenage respondents said abortion was morally wrong, 32 percent said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances, and 47 percent said abortions should be legal only under certain circumstances. Nineteen percent said abortion should be legal in all circumstances.
A New York Times/CBS News poll the same year found that the proportion of 18- to 29-year-olds who thought abortion should be generally available to those who want one had dropped to 39 percent, from 48 percent a decade earlier.
Kristen Cross, a representative of National Right to Life, said she was surprised that Planned Parenthood was giving the impression that it needed to raise funds at all.
"Planned Parenthood operates the nation's largest chain of abortion clinics," Cross said, adding that "If you look at their income just on abortion alone it is at about 100 million dollars."
"Anyone who gets a cell-phone [to] support Planned Parenthood is supporting abortion and the promotion of abortion."
Cross was, nonetheless, impressed by the idea of using such a common service as a cell phone to raise money for a non-profit group.
"How many people carry cell phones and would love to donate a portion of that [money spent] to a non-profit rather than all of it going to the companies themselves?" she said.
"I would love for 10 percent of my phone bill [to benefit a cause] - but not something that takes the life of an unborn child," Cross added.
Organizations that Working Assets says it is supporting this year via cell phone plans include the ACLU, NARAL Pro Choice America, People for the American Way Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State , CODEPINK, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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