The following article appeared in the Buffalo Evening News on Sunday, Mar. 22.

Pro-life group rallies against United Way


- A local pro-life group is calling on donors to stop giving to the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County after the organization rescinded a policy that probited funding for agencies that provide abortion services.

Stacia Zoladz Vogel, president of Buffalo Regional Right to Life, said the United Way’s decision was “outrageous” and “unacceptable.”

She urged donors to contribute directly to charities of their choice rather than to United Way.

Helen Westover, a Buffalo resident who is part of a national group called Stop Planned Parenthood, also objected to the potential for United Way money going to Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood’s sexual education programs are inappropriate for preteen and teen children, Westover said.

“This is not the kind of sex education the average parent would want for their children. What it is is recruitment,” she said.

Planned Parenthood of Western New York, though, welcomed the United Way decision, which comes nearly two years after the agency was denied United Way funding because it provides abortions among its many services.

Rescinding the policy makes the United Way more transparent to its donors, said Karen J. Nelson, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Western New York.

“The community,” she added, “will be better when we work together.”

For decades, the United Way had a “position statement” against funding for any agency “involved in the delivery of abortion services.”

But instead of providing loose funding for various agencies, as it had in the past, the organization now targets successful programs and services.

Abortion services don’t fall under the organization’s focus areas of income, education or wellness, United Way officials said, although agencies such as Planned Parenthood may have other programs that fall into those categories.

United Way’s application deadline for funding in 2009-2010 passed, so the earliest any Planned Parenthood program could apply for future funding would be in 2010.

It’s unclear what Planned Parenthood programs, if any, would fit into United Way’s criteria. In a handful of other communities around the country, United Ways have funded Planned Parenthood programs in community health, communicable disease prevention and family planning and counseling.

But pro-life groups said any funding set aside for programs of Planned Parenthood supports abortion services.

“They are about abortion, for abortion and do abortions,” Vogel said. “Whatever cover of income, education or wellness it is using, funds to Planned Parenthood support their mission.”

And United Way would have little control over how money would be spent once given to Planned Parenthood, Westover said.

“It’s also fungible, and it goes for other things, too,” she said.

United Way officials, however, insisted that any grants made to eligible programs would not go to support abortion services.