Some question Planned Parenthood location

Amid anti-abortion protests and accusations of racism, a new Planned Parenthood clinic had its grand opening in inner-city Milwaukee last week.

The new location at 1748 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. is a relocation of the former Planned Parenthood location on Brown Street. At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 16, Planned Parenthood officials gave speeches celebrating the location's opening.

"This is a wonderful day," said James Stewart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. "We are so privileged to be here in this location."

Anti-abortion protestors outside the location felt differently, however.

"I'm here to protect the innocent unborn children who are being slaughtered by Planned Parenthood," said Colin Hudson, who was one of the about 10 protestors outside the new clinic.

Planned Parenthood preys on blacks and "vulnerable women," said Hudson, who ran last November as the Constitution Party candidate for the vacant 4th Congressional District seat.

Among anti-abortion groups, Planned Parenthood has a reputation for opening locations in low-income areas or areas with high concentrations of minorities.

"We're not in favor of Planned Parenthood at all," said Linda Schmidt, president of the Wisconsin chapter of Citizens for a Pro-life Society. "They target minorities. They say that they're not racist, but they certainly don't make any bones about opening locations where there are more minorities."

The King Heights neighborhood, where the new center is located, is home to a population classified as 82.8 to 98.2 black, according to 2000 U.S. Census data, the most current data available. And, as most inner-city regions in Milwaukee, it is categorized in the lowest category of median household income by the U.S.Census Bureau.

But Lorraine Lathen, vice president of community education for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, rejects any notion that the location's placement was racist.

"The mission of Planned Parenthood is to empower all individuals," Lathen said. "Certainly, that includes African-Americans. I think we would not be doing our job if we weren't helping them."

Lathen also said the clinic's grand opening was deliberately held during February, in "honor and ceremony of Black History Month".

"We're really excited about doing our launch during Black History Month," Lathen said. "It's very historic to be here on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive."

Lathen said it was hard for her to take the concerns of the protestors seriously since none of them was black or female.

The old Brown Street location was too small and difficult to access, according to Lathen.

The new King Heights clinic has high visibility and is on the Milwaukee County Transit System bus line — providing "lots of community access." The 11,000-square-foot spot is leased from YW Housing, a nonprofit subsidiary of YWCA of Greater Milwaukee.

The new clinic does not provide abortions, but it does provide "emergency contraceptive pills," according to publicity material for the new clinic. Lathen said the pills, which are not RU-486, have high doses of oral contraceptive that prevent pregnancy within five days of unprotected sex.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Feb. 24 2005.