Research for this article was generously supplied by Planned Parenthood of Dutchess/Ulster. Anyone interested in original sources should contact Willa Freiband at (914) 928-7317.
No matter what STOPP has said, they have never defeated us." That is the message from Willa Freiband, Public Affairs Coordinator, Planned Parenthood of Dutchess/Ulster County.
Ms. Freiband has been dealing with this particular group of religious fanatics since they demonstrated outside of Planned Parenthood in May of 1985. That is where she first encountered Jim Sedlak, the father (and mother?) of STOPP.
Mr. Sedlak works at IBM in Poughkeepsie, is very computer literate and has apparently made the rest of his life work exposing the "International Conspiracy of Planned Parenthood to De-Populate the World!" His plans to accomplish this were detailed at a STOPP conference in Poughkeepsie September 22, 1990 held at Our Lady of Lourdes High School.
The tapes made at that conference explain the organization's philosophy and function. It is not possible in this brief article to explore in depth all of STOPP's agenda, but the history of the group, some of their activities and their main focus of attack on Planned Parenthood will be outlined. (Here is a page containing some direct quotes taken from presenters at the conference.)
STOPP's main goal is fighting Planned Parenthood everywhere in almost every way. This is much more of a task than one would imagine, because any person or group who supports reproductive rights, access to birth control, or sexuality education belongs to the Planned Parenthood Conspiracy.
When did this Conspiracy begin? Why, with Margaret Sanger, of course. She is the author of all our 1990's social problems - promiscuity, teen pregnancy, broken homes, etc. She promoted birth control, abortion, Free Love, and eugenics. And every one of her beliefs are alive and well 70 years later in all Planned Parenthood programs throughout the world!
In a future issue, the Body Politic will review Margaret Sanger's life and times, but suffice it to say for now, that STOPP totally misrepresents Planned Parenthood's philosophy and goals. STOPP's members illustrate how simple it is to live unshackled by the bonds of reality - no statement is too outrageous, no concept too murky, no fantasy too unreal.
STOPP's activities in Dutchess County heated up during the 1986 County budget hearings. Newspaper accounts tell how STOPP tried to block funding for Planned Parenthood's education programs. In 1986 Planned Parenthood received about $14,000 through the Youth Bureau for programs directed at teenagers. The components of the programs were not just reproduction and birth control but gender roles and self-esteem.
Willa Freiband was quoted in the Poughkeepsie Journal as saying,
"I would find it hard to believe the Legislature would not agree to fund information and education programs at a time when there is such concern about teenage pregnancies, venereal disease and AIDS."
The appropriation sailed through the Budget and Finance Committee and was sent to the floor for a vote on November 26th. The mandatory public hearing before the vote was the occasion for the first large STOPP turnout. Many Planned Parenthood opponents showed up and dragged out the meeting for hours. One woman was quoted as saying that those who applaud the organization, "...do not know Jesus and they do not know God."
Willa Freiband presented lawmakers with a 660 signature petition supporting the agency's work. An Episcopal minister read a letter of support signed by 38 local clergy.
John Kennedy, a local anti-choice legislator, said that the public had come out and the legislators should listen to them. "The issue comes down to a matter of respect for people morally offended that their taxes will subsidize Planned Parenthood."
After many hours of statements, the budget was passed and Planned Parenthood was funded. They have continued to be funded every year since then, and the 1990 vote was more positive than expected.
Last year Dutchess County lost 5 of its pro-choice legislators. Not because of "choice", but because of the local financial situation. Even with that state of affairs, Planned Parenthood won 20 of 35 votes.
However, consistent defeats have not rained on STOPP's parade. They continue their efforts, and in 1990 held a conference to export their organization and strategies across America.
According to Ms. Freiband approximately 100 people from around the country attended the one day event. Guest presenters included:
The workshops at that conference offer a fascinating look, not only at STOPP, but a glimpse into the minds of many in the fanatical anti- choice community. Space does not permit a thorough discussion of the ten workshops but, there are major themes addressed throughout and these will be explored.
Ms. Freiband said that not only did STOPP oppose sex education, but AIDS and child abuse education. Mr. Sedlack said that all a child needs to know about preventing child abuse is that you don't let anyone touch you where you wear a bathing suit. As far as AIDS is concerned, all you tell anyone (presumably over the age of 12) is that you don't exchange body fluids. Lesson finished, case closed.
Mr. Sedlak claims that Planned Parenthood uses falsified statistics to manufacture a crisis, such as teen pregnancy, then tries to sell people on their solution. He also seems to believe that teens have no problem with AIDS or drug abuse. Even if they did, no one but parents should be dealing with the problem. The challenge for STOPP members is, "...to fight against schools becoming social agencies."
One of Ms. Freiband's mailings to the County Legislators contained the results of a New York State poll conducted in 1986 by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. The polls showed an overwhelming support for Planned Parenthood as an organization.
Local citizens also supported Planned Parenthood and their educations programs. Mr. Sedlak dismisses all these parents as, essentially, dupes who have bought the Planned Parenthood line. He asserts that Planned Parenthood infiltrated the PTA years ago and that is why so many PTA members support the agency and sex education in general.
You can hear the fear in his voice when he sums up Planned Parenthood sexuality education as ultimately stressing responsible sexual decision-making! This is not allowed. Children are not to think. Of course, Mr. Sedlak also attacked school-based health clinics and discounted the Johns Hopkins' study that showed a 30% reduction in teen pregnancy in Baltimore schools which had clinics. Apparently the only statistics with validity come from the Sedlak Institute.
This is a small sample of STOPP's fear and loathing of sexuality education. It is easy to find pity for these poor desperate people besieged by demons attempting to steal their children.
Jim Sedlak said in one workshop that Planned Parenthood claims they are for the poor and that they do everything on a sliding scale fee, but if you investigate you may find that's not true. They also "hide" their Medicaid reimbursement in their budget so you don't know how much they receive.
According to Mr. Sedlak, they charge high rates for their contraceptives and, can you imagine, the average cost for a first trimester abortion at Planned Parenthood is $215. "They don't give a lot away for free." He also claimed that 74% of income goes for salaries. This would mean that the 19 people employed at Dutchess/Ulster Planned Parenthood would make an average of $36,000 a year! Those who work for Planned Parenthood will probably find this amusing.
Nowhere in Mr. Sedlak's diatribe is there any compassion or understanding for the majority of Planned Parenthood patients - low income women, many of whom see no other health care provider.
But surely, the woman who administered the Family Planning Program for the federal government in the Reagan years would have some concern for the women she served. Jo Ann Gasper, formerly of HHS, was a workshop speaker, but her lack of compassion for Planned Parenthood patients bordered on venomous.
She may have been responsible for administering Title X grants, but her program was not family planning - just defunding Planned Parenthood. At one point in her talk she recounted with glee how she refused funding for a Nurse Practitioner program and "Planned Parenthood was without funds for 24 hours."
Incidentally, her actions and subsequent firing set up the scenario for the institution of the Gag Rules. (see March Body Politic).
Ms. Gasper also portrays "these low-income women" as mostly 12 year-old girls coming in to get condoms without parental approval.
The main thrust of her message to the conference was how to "blow the whistle" on Planned Parenthood and cause them to loose Title X funds.
John Cavanaugh O'Keefe, introduced as the Father of the Rescue Movement, characterized Planned Parenthood as "a threat to civilization."
None of the workshop presenters were able to deal in a positive and understanding way with the need for reproductive health care. The uncomfortableness with sexuality that all these people share, is made clear by their statements and tone of voice.
Doug Scott conducted a workshop entitled, "The China Planned Parenthood Death Policy." Apparently Planned Parenthood has infiltrated every international family planning organization with the intent of "de-populating the world."
Planned Parenthood is directly responsible for China's coercive abortion policy, even though the agency has consistently spoken out against coerced abortion or sterilization.
Mr. Scott recounted the sad story of a Dr. Lee from China whose wife became pregnant with their second child while the doctor was in America studying. China does have a one child policy for families and there was great pressure exerted on the Lees to abort the pregnancy.
Dr. Lee applied for political asylum for his family when his wife had the baby, and apparently Mr. Scott was instrumental in getting the Lees asylum before Edwin Meese left the Justice Department.
Those who believe in choice and self-determination will applaud the outcome of this story. However, the reality of population pressures on the Chinese people and land is undisputable - except by STOPP. According to John Cavanaugh O'Keefe, all population programs are designed by Planned Parenthood and spring from their racist founder, Margaret Sanger. He asserts that the idea the world is over-populated is "losing credibility." Mr. O'Keefe bases this belief in part on the fact that there are less people in the Scottish Highlands today than centuries ago.
Space constraints do not permit a further examination of STOPP's concepts of the world condition. Man has been a good steward of the earth and anyone concerned about man's numbers and effect on the planet is another Planned Parenthood dupe.
Every presenter had very strong religious beliefs - most were Catholic. Jim Sedlak said in his workshop "Forming STOPP Affiliates",
"We firmly believe that this is a religious battle. We strongly reject anyone that says, 'you can't push religion. You have to go in and talk about civil rights or something.' We go out as a Christian organization and have from the first."
Mr. Sedlak cautions those thinking about forming a STOPP chapter that they must be comfortable with proclaiming a religious battle, because, "that is what we do." STOPP members must give "glory to God" for everything they do.
Workshop leaders certainly held true to form. Marisa Velez who conducted the workshop, "Fighting Planned Parenthood Sex Education Programs", testified that the Lord was always with them and He had planned every move they made. "Fighting Planned Parenthood makes you a faithful steward of God's word."
During the discussion on how to cut off local government funding of Planned Parenthood, Mr. Sedlak said, "God will decide how He wants the legislature to vote. Our job is to proclaim His message and to get people out to the meetings to speak."
Jo Ann Gasper said there are two Planned Parenthoods. One is an affiliation of family planning clinics, the other a religion. Members of the latter have "birth control" as their religion.
Helen Westover, chief organizer of Planned Parenthood pickets in Dutchess/Ulster said about her first picket, "The Lord brings good out of evil. There were a lot of evil feelings generated by Planned Parenthood."
In STOPP's universe, Planned Parenthood is equated with the devil and most who work for the agency are Secular Humanists (with only the "birth control" God to pray too).
STOPP may not have a formal affiliate in your area, but their philosophy is alive and well in the minds of most anti-choice activists. The fear of living, the paranoia and the need to find a scapegoat for social ills is a common thread of anti-choice thought.
Willa Freiband says if a STOPP chapter forms in you area, use it as a fine opportunity to educate the public about the real message of Planned Parenthood, then STOPP won't really get started.
Planned Parenthood has been getting harassing letters warning them to change their ways before it is too late. Some staff members have even received this type of mail at home.
Greg Soehner, Executive Director said,
"Those who don't agree with what PLanned Parenthood stands for are entitled to their opinion. But we don't believe their inflammatory rhetoric should influence funding decisions that could have a serious impact on the health of thousands of women in this community."
We hope Planned Parenthood supporters in Rochester are listening.
In another part of the state, Planned Parenthood of Broome and Chenango Counties, based in Binghamton, has just received word that the North Atlantic Region conference scheduled for April 11-13 will be protested by the un-defunct Operation Rescue.
Randy Terry is calling press conferences, picketing the airport, holding rallies, and importing Joe Scheidler and Jim Sedlak to announce the formation of a STOPP affiliate in the Binghamton area.
Randy has directed special outrage at an ecumenical service scheduled for Saturday morning at Trinity Memorial Church. He has designated this a service for DEATH and called it a "heresy" (who died and made him Pope?)
Planned Parenthood and the pro-choice community are mobilizing and the Body Politic will report on these events in the May issue.