Virginia Planned Parenthood Facility First in Nation to Offer "Choice
Roanoke -- Women walking into the confines of Planned Parenthood of Blue Ridge Inc. have two choices regarding their unborn child: Through one door, they may choose to abort her. Through another, they can put her up for adoption.
Although there are 900 Planned Parenthood agencies and 130 affiliates nationwide, this is the only Planned Parenthood facility where the false pro-abortion notion of "choice" is partially a reality.
This combination of abortion and adoption, which has gotten mixed reviews from pro-life groups, is the brainchild of David Nova, 38, president of the Roanoke clinic. He is also the past president of the local Reform Jewish temple, and "choice," he says, is part of his religion.
"This new building will be operationally pro-choice," he says referring to the new 2-million dollar facility they are building. "All choices will be available: abortion, adoption and prenatal care."
To date, there have been no adoptions resulting from the arrangement, but one is under consideration.
According to Virginia Department of Health figures, there were 821 abortions in the greater Roanoke Valley in 1997. Mr. Nova's facility averages 15 abortions a week; one of the few places in Southwest Virginia where women can get them.
Will the new system bring down abortion rates? "It might," he says.
Mr. Nova, a past deputy director for Amnesty International, took over the abortion facility 10 years ago. He was on staff when it began doing first-trimester abortions in 1995.
Its long-term business plan also included adoptions, a possibility that has been a hot topic in Congress this summer.
According to the Adoption Awareness Act, introduced July 14 in the House and co-sponsored by 40 members, federally funded health clinics such as Planned Parenthood must present the "adoption option" to their clients. Otherwise, they lose their funding under Title X of the Public Health Service Act.
This would greatly affect Planned Parenthood, which receives $45 million annually from Title X. In 1998, the abortion agency provided prenatal care to 17,000 people, performed 166,900 abortions, and made 5,500 adoption referrals -- 3,881 less than in 1997.
The Adoption Awareness Act would establish a $7 million-a-year grant program for adoption training. The "adoption option" had been the subject of casual conversation at Roanoke Planned Parenthood for years, as the agency had an informal relationship with several adoption agencies.
Peter Pufki, executive director of Children's Home Society of Virginia, stepped in. Planned Parenthood was already referring women to CHS, which does 45 adoptions a year. However, there was no in-house counselor with whom women could discuss adoption.
"We felt it was more powerful to provide that option here instead of sending them along," Mr. Nova said.
In April, a licensing agreement was announced whereby Planned Parenthood would give CHS office space and CHS would pay Planned Parenthood $1 for each woman referred to it. CHS' nameplate was then stenciled on the clinic doors. A CHS staff member comes to Planned Parenthood one day a week, usually on the days when the most pregnancy tests are done.
The new facility, which will increase the clinic's space from 7,000 square feet to 11,000 square feet, will include free pregnancy tests, prenatal care for uninsured and Medicaid women, a drive-through window for pill pick-up (another first for Planned Parenthood clinics, Mr. Nova says), and a garden for "contemplative thought."
The reason for the pregnancy tests? The local Crisis Pregnancy Center does them free. Tom Clark, director of the CPC of Roanoke Valley, declined to comment about the expansion.
"It's irrelevant," he says. "What Planned Parenthood does is their business." There has been some bad blood between the two groups in the past, dating from the time a few years ago when Planned Parenthood bought the building that housed the CPC offices. When its lease came up, Planned Parenthood refused to renew it.
It was an "awkward" situation, Mr. Nova admits, which is why the adoption license has been an attempt to secure some good publicity. "This gives us greater legitimacy in having the interests of the mother first," he says.
This fall, Mr. Nova plans to offer adoption services in two other affiliated abortion centers in Blacksburg, Va., and Charlottesville. The latter clinic recently received an $800 grant from an Episcopal church to train staff on adoption procedures.
Jim Sedlak, founder of Stop Planned Parenthood in Stafford, Va., says offering adoptions is a ploy to get the public's mind off of abortions at the agency.
"This announcement by Planned Parenthood in Roanoke came after a major effort last year by the state of Virginia to offer a 'Choose Life' license plate, the proceeds from which would go to places that provide adoptions," he said. "Just observing the way Planned Parenthood operates, it interests us that a Planned Parenthood clinic in Virginia would be the first to offer these services."
The Roanoke abortion facility stands out in several ways. Not only is it the first in the country to offer the adoption option, but it also employs a female "Southern Baptist" minister to counsel women regarding abortions -- another first, apparently. She told a local newspaper that Scripture is "ambiguous" on the subject.
Mr. Nova will travel to Chicago this month to describe his program to a national gathering of CEOs of Planned Parenthood clinics. He has already received a phone call from one Chicago adoption agency about his program.
"I certainly think this is a great idea," he says. "I think there's a lot of interest out there, but it requires a great fit . . . two agencies that can work well together."
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