A Rift in the Ranks

Pro-choice lobby may be weakened by a disagreement over regulation of abortion clinics

He's even madder at Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona and the legislative leaders who invited them to the table.

"I do 20 percent of the abortions in this state, and nobody bothered to call me. That little Mr. Howard . . . he didn't call me. I invited every legislator on Groscost's committee to come to my office."

They all refused, he says. Of the legislators, Finkel says, "They're just mean-spirited religionists that want to force their peculiar beliefs on the rest of us, and I don't want any part of it."

Bruce Miller, executive director of Right to Choose, acknowledges the split in the pro-choice community, but no one else will, publicly.

In Tucson, Ginger Yrun's got her head down. Up here, all requests for information from Planned Parenthood of Central Arizona must go through the company flak, Beth Meyer.

Meyer is either disingenuous or ill-informed. Last Thursday, I asked her point blank: Are you getting complaints about your position on HB2706 from other pro-choice groups?

"Quite frankly, we have not," she replied.
How about from your members?
"That I'm aware of, no."

Hmmm. Meyer must not have seen the letter that went to Planned Parenthood members earlier last week, after the House passed HB2706. The letter, signed by the group's chairman of the board, John Martinson, and president/CEO, Bryan Howard, states, ". . .Our position on HB2706 has caused some stir among our supporters and even some Planned Parenthood affiliates. . . ."

Perhaps Howard didn't see the letter, either--even though it went out under his name--because when I finally got him on the phone and asked how his constituents are responding to his organization's support of HB2706, he replied, "Bravo!"

"There's been a very positive response to the idea that Planned Parenthood would sit at the table and participate in a crafting of this bill, as opposed to simply opposing it," he says.

In his letter, Howard insists HB2706 is not the slippery slope toward concession on other abortion bills. But his detractors don't see how he'll prevent that.

One observer, a former employee of both Arizona Right to Choose and Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona, says Howard's too eager to be a political player in an arena--the Arizona Legislature--where a pro-choicer can't win.

"Howard has boxed himself in a place where he's going to have to either continue or completely swing back the other way," the observer says. "And if he wants to retain the power that he has now in the Legislature, and the perception that he can be worked with and that he's not a fanatic, he's going to have to continue to work with these people, and they're going to ask more and more of him, I'm sure."

House Bill 2706 has been assigned to the Senate Family Services Committee. As of press time, it was scheduled to be heard Wednesday, March 24, at 8 a.m. The committee, chaired by pro-life conservative David Peterson, is stacked with pro-lifers. It's unlikely Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona will be able to convince the panelists to make the bill more abortion-provider friendly.

So they'll have to take their battle to the Senate floor where, by some counts, the bill will sail through as is, 25-5.

And then it will be on to the next abortion bill.

Contact Amy Silverman at 229-8443 or her online address: asilverman@newtimes.com

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