Fight brewing over Planned Parenthood building

January 27, 2009 4:59:04 PM PST
Right to life activists tried Tuesday to put pressure on Houston city council members over the growth of a Planned Parenthood center southeast of downtown. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The Planned Parenthood organization has outgrown its current headquarters in Houston's Midtown neighborhood, so it's building a much larger facility along the Gulf Freeway near the University of Houston and TSU.

Its construction brought out anti-abortion activists to city hall.

"When open, it will be the largest abortion center in the western hemisphere," said anti-abortion activist Christine Melchor. "It will include an ambulatory surgical center where Planned Parenthood will have the capability of performing abortions on unborn children through six months of pregnancy."

No one at city council chose to respond, but Planned Parenthood's spokesperson Rochelle Tofoya defended the organization's need for a new building.

"It's a larger facility for us to provide all the same services we're providing now," she said. "That's birth control, annual well-woman exams, surgical cancer screenings. We will provide abortions, but that's only a small portion of services we provide."

The new building will more than double the size of the current Planned Parenthood building. The organization says it will follow every state law and safety will be a top priority.

"We are following every regulation and every law, but we are also taking safeguard measures to make sure we maintain a safe environment for our construction workers and certainly for our clients when we move into the building," said Tafoya.

That's not stopping anti-abortion activists from stepping up their efforts. Even though there were no visible protests Tuesday, at least four speakers went to city hall demanding action.

"Planned Parenthood provides such services as STD testing, pregnancy testing, birth control and abortions," said anti-abortion activist Christine Kasper. "Many of these are distributed to underage girls."

The building is scheduled to open in 2010.

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