CHARLESTON — Catholics around the diocese are expressing concern about the prospective opening of a Planned Parenthood facility in Charleston.
According to information on Planned Parenthood Health System Inc.’s Web site, the agency purchased an office at 200 Rutledge Ave. in Charleston in December, 2007. The Web site’s newsletter includes a photo of the building and notes that the office will provide medical care beginning in 2008.
The only other Planned Parenthood facility in South Carolina is located in Middleburg Plaza in Columbia. Abortions are performed at the Columbia facility.
Holly Gatling, executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life, said records at the Charleston County Auditor’s office show the space was purchased for $1.25 million.
No specific date for the Charleston facility’s opening has been announced.
The Planned Parenthood newsletter indicated the Rutledge Avenue office would be used to provide “a full range of preventative services.” The newsletter does not mention abortion, but a story broadcast on Charleston’s Channel 2 on April 23 featured a representative of Planned Parenthood saying the facility would only perform “therapeutic” abortions, described as procedures done only for medical reasons. The representative, Kate Hampton, said the facility would not perform “elective” abortions, which she described as abortions done by choice and without medical referral.
Abortions are currently performed at a center in West Ashley. Catholics and others concerned about an end to abortion gather to pray outside that facility one Saturday a month. Weekly Saturday prayer vigils are also held across from the Columbia Planned Parenthood office.
“It is sad that Planned Parenthood will be opening its doors in Charleston,” said Father James L. LeBlanc, director of family life for the Diocese of Charleston and pastor of St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken. “The Diocese of Charleston, our family life office and our numerous pro-family, pro-life Catholic activists around South Carolina will continue to make every effort to promote for women and for men real choices that will allow for a culture of life to replace the proposed culture of death.”
Kathy Schmugge, family life coordinator, said Respect Life coordinators from the five diocesan deaneries and coordinators from individual parishes will be working together to come up with positive Catholic responses to the new facility. She said the issue will certainly be addressed during this year’s “40 Days for Life” campaign, which will begin in September. The annual nationwide event focuses on ending abortion and includes peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion clinics around the country.
“This has come as a shock to all of us, and now we’ve got to come up with a serious, proactive way of combating the Planned Parenthood mindset,” Schmugge said.
Annette Griebsch, Respect Life coordinator for the Coastal deanery and Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek, said she has been in touch with Charleston area Catholics as well as pro-life representatives from other denominations, including Anglicans and Lutherans.
“Primarily, what I would like is for everyone to call the mayor’s office, to write letters, to attend city council meetings and air their concerns, especially about the effect this will have on families,” Griebsch said. “The Planned Parenthood organization is directly opposed to Roman Catholic teaching.”
Schmugge and Griebsch also encouraged Catholics to continue to pray for an end to abortion and inform others about the need to stand up for the sanctity of human life.
“The Catholic community must be informed of the negative impact that Planned Parenthood is having on the family and human life so that as a community of faith we may enter the public square and present a message of hope to answer their message of hopelessness,” Schmugge said.