Dueling Rallies on Women’s Health
and Abortion at Altmire’s Office
By J.D. Prose
Beaver County Timesonline.com
ALIQUIPPA – Hopewell Township resident Danielle Houston was 22 and uninsured when she went to Planned Parenthood to take a pregnancy test.
The test was positive, Houston got health insurance and eventually had a son, and she’s grateful for the assistance she received from Planned Parenthood. "I felt that they weren’t judgmental," she said Tuesday in the parking lot of U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire’s Aliquippa district office.
Now, Houston is again without health insurance and she’s returned to Planned Parenthood for help. "It’s the only place I can get affordable checkups and birth control," she said.
Houston, her sister, Heather, a 19-year-old Center Township resident, and other supporters sporting bright pink Planned Parenthood T-shirts were at Altmire’s office to counter-protest a rally conducted about an hour later by the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List over Altmire’s vote in the House against the Pence Amendment, which would prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving $363 million in federal funds.
The Senate is expected to debate the measure soon.
"We are here to set the record straight," said Kimberlee Evert, the president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, standing in front of a pink tour bus covered in statistics about the health-care services, besides abortion, provided by the group, such as cancer screenings, testing, and breast exams.
Evert called opponents such as the SBA List "extreme activists" who lie. "They have a history of not telling the truth," she said.
If the funding were cut, Evert said, millions of women, including the 12,000 Planned Parenthood assists annually in western Pennsylvania, would lose vital health-care services.
"The health of the women we care for should not be a political issue," she said.
As the Planned Parenthood rally ended, the SBA List’s black tour bus, adorned with "No More Tax $ For Planned Parenthood," arrived on McLean Street.
Although federal funding for abortions is prohibited, those with the List repeatedly criticized Altmire, a self-described "pro-life" Democrat, for his vote and described Planned Parenthood as centered on abortions for financial gain.
"We in his district are 100 percent pro-life," said Fabiola Gergerich, an Ambridge resident and Aliquippa native, who said Altmire’s vote would be remembered by anti-abortion constituents.
Addressing Altmire, who was not at his office, Gergerich said, "How you vote on this will have consequences in November 2012."
Hopewell resident Keri Muir, the director of Choices Pregnancy Center in Coraopolis, said she was disappointed in Altmire before comparing her organization with Planned Parenthood.
"We do not provide abortions. We provide options," Muir said. "Planned Parenthood is an abortion-centered business. Planned Parenthood cares about making money, not protecting women."
Former Colorado U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, the List’s director, and Lila Rose, a 22-year-old UCLA graduate who did a controversial string of undercover videos on Planned Parenthood, also spoke to supporters.
Altmire, D-4, McCandless Township, insisted that his vote against the Pence Amendment reflected his anti-abortion stance. "I really believe the vote I cast is going to prevent abortions," he said, pointing to Planned Parenthood’s birth control, family planning and women’s health services.
"They prevent unintended pregnancies," he said of Planned Parenthood. "Not one penny of any of that money goes to abortion."
[J.D. Prose can be reached online at email@example.com.]