EDMONTON- On June 12, 1984, Planned Parenthood was denied a $12,868 grant request and their application for membership in the United Way of Edmonton was turned down.
This was not the first time a Planned Parenthood application to the United Way had been rejected. They applied twice before but in previous years their application never made it past the investigation committee to a vote by the board. This time it did. It was defeated.
As a result of this decision three members of the United Way board of directors resigned in protest over the rejected Planned Parenthood application.
Two weeks later, after heavy internal lobbying and a concerted anti-Catholic campaign in the Edmonton Journal and by the CBC, the decision was turned around in a new vote on
June 28, and Planned Parenthood was handed their request and permitted to join the United Way.
This about-face caused Catholic Social Services of Edmonton to announce on July 6, that they would pull out of the United Way following the lead of Catholic charities in Toronto and Vancouver.
Before the new decision was made, Edmonton Archbishop, Joseph MacNeil, warned on June 27, that, “The Catholic community should not be linked in the minds of the people
with an association that is an abortion referral agency.”
Reverend Kenneth Kimbly of the fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches said that he now hopes to influence its several member congregations to withhold support for the United Way.
During the two weeks before the decision was reversed, almost the entire weight of the Edmonton Journal was thrown behind Planned Parenthood. The Journal lambasted the United Way in four editorials for bowing to “ideological pressure,” saying that this progressive cause should take precedence over any “concern for religious creed or individual morality.”
The local inflexible-advocate-of-feminist-rights, Journal columnist, June Shephard,
stated that Edmonton Catholic Services was part of an international pro-life conspiracy
dedicated to the elimination of one of her favourite causes – abortion-on-demand.
The only dissenting voice was that of the religion editor, Paul de Groot. He condemned the attacks on Catholics and the United Way and predicted the admission of Planned Parenthood would cause not just Roman Catholics, but evangelicals, to withdraw support.
Most letters published at that time by the Journal backed its position and they ranged from those disgruntled with the United Way’s rejection of Planned Parenthood, to letters suggesting the United Way was being “blackmailed” by the Catholic Church. One published letter-writer said he was a Catholic but was supportive of Planned Parenthood.
On a CBC radio interview Edmonton AM‘s host John Hanlon spoke with Frederick Day, the president of the United Way. In response to Mr. Day’s statement that he would quit if Planned Parenthood were accepted, he asked, “Isn’t that holding an axe over their head?” Later, thinking he had the deck stacked, he asked, “Don’t you think it is an unfair conflict of interest for you to vote on this issue when you are the past head of Catholic Social Services?” Mr. Day calmly replied that he did not vote at all.
Phil Henry, host of another CBC program, Edmonton PM adopted the same attitude so much so that many people wrote to Mr. Day after the show to congratulate him on his restraint.
CBC TV coverage is reported to have been more objective.
The dust has not settled yet. Mr. Frederick Day, United Way president, after saying publicly he would resign if Planned Parenthood was permitted to join, has capitulated and decided to stay on as president.
In contrast, Mark Toth, member of the Loaned Representatives Committee of the United Way has resigned because of membership granted to Planned Parenthood. He wrote a letter to all other members of the committee stating the reasons for his resignation.
The three board members who quit after the first vote, are now back on the board.
Mrs. Kathleen Toth, vice-president of Campaign Life Alberta, is organizing all pro-lifers to support Catholic social Services if they are Catholic and to send their donations directly to those charities which have nothing to do with the controversy if they are not.
There is still an important question left unanswered:
- Why was Planned Parenthood accepted by the United Way when their programme sis not, as stated by the president, conform on all levels to the criteria required for membership?