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The Suburbanite
  • Council president questions United Way funding decision

  • A socially and politically-charged issue is expected to take center stage at Monday night’s Canton City Council meeting. Council is expected to vote on an informal resolution critical of the United Way of Greater Stark County for no longer providing an annual allotment of funding to Planned Parenthood.

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  • City Council is expected to vote on an informal resolution Monday night critical of the United Way of Greater Stark County for no longer providing an annual allotment of funding to Planned Parenthood.
    United Way’s decision to no longer allocate roughly $140,000 a year to Planned Parenthood is not a new development. That happened in 2010.
     United Way had contributed funding to Planned Parenthood in Stark County since 1970.
    Council President Allen Schulman recently became aware of the funding issue when the agency sent letters to 15 longtime supporters (including Schulman) informing them that the United Way support was expiring in March.
    He suggested the resolution.
    Contributors to United Way can still designate their donation for the Planned Parenthood site in Stark County. Planned Parenthood is an “affiliate partner” but no longer a “funded partner” of the United Way of Greater Stark County.
    The United Way of Greater Stark County launched its 2012 fundraising drive Friday. The campaign goal is $7.1 million and runs through Nov. 29.
    Representatives of Planned Parenthood are expected to attend Monday’s City Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber on the lower level of City Hall at 218 Cleveland Ave. SW.
    The resolution has been submitted by Council members Mary Cirelli, D-at large; Greg Hawk,D-1; Kevin Fisher, D-5; John Mariol II, D-7; and Edmond Mack, D-8.
    The resolution mentions services provided at the Stark County Planned Parenthood health center, including breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, tests for sexually transmitted diseases and medical exams.
    “It is manifestly clear that Planned Parenthood serves a vital role for the health and well-being of our community residents,” the resolution says.
    At the Aug. 27 council meeting, Schulman blasted United Way’s decision.
    “United Way is a great organization for our community but in this particular instance it has failed this community and it’s failed it horribly,” Schulman said. “Forty years United Way has funded Planned Parenthood in our community and all of a sudden in the last two years they don’t fund it anymore, and they say, well it’s OK, you can send money to Planned Parenthood and earmark your contribution or your donation. That is an outrage.”
    Schulman, a Democrat, said Planned Parenthood is “not an abortion clinic” and provides vital medical services for women. Many women rely on the agency for their primary medical care, he said.
    In a recent statement issued to The Repository, United Way of Greater Stark County explained the 2010 decision.
    “Increased community and donor concerns since the 2007 merger of Stark County Planned Parenthood with Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio prompted United Way to initiate the new funding relationship,” the agency said. “In 2010, a volunteer United Way Task Force met for months to consider the interests of those on either side of this issue. United Way volunteers understood the obligation to consider with equal regard the opinions and interests of all involved.”
    Page 2 of 2 - “United Way’s board and 2010 Task Force volunteers ... sought common ground,” the agency said.
    In 2010, United Way’s board of directors decided to give Planned Parenthood a special board grant of $140,000 a year for two years to fund Stark County programming. The special grant expires in March 2013.
    In July, Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio, which included the Stark County facility, Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio, the agency’s advocacy arm, merged to create Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.
    Planned Parenthood Affiliates was renamed Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio.
    The Canton site does not perform abortions. Abortion services are provided at Planned Parenthood facilities in Bedford and Columbus.
    At the last council meeting, Schulman noted that “it is a constitutional right for women to have an abortion in the United States of America in 2012.
    “... Secondly, Planned Parenthood is not in the business of encouraging abortions,” he said.
    Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said the Stark County Planned Parenthood site, also known as the Canton Health Center, provides reproductive health care services, including cancer screenings, medical exams, birth control, treatment and vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases and other services.
    “When a woman has questions about her pregnancy, we do talk to her and we provide full-options counseling,” she said. Options discussed include adoption, raising the child and abortion, Kight said.
    “We are not in the business of encouraging abortion,” she said. “Nobody would do that; we are health care professionals with a deep compassion for their personal and private decision making.”
    The Stark County site serves more than 6,000 women each year as well as men.
    The total annual operating budget of the Planned Parenthood site in Canton was not available.
    “It is a significant part,” Kight said. “If we cannot make up that funding we will definitely reduce services.”