Planned Parenthood Glenwood Springs crowdfunding tops $13K | AspenTimes.com

Planned Parenthood Glenwood Springs crowdfunding tops $13K

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

A grassroots fundraising campaign has raised more than $13,000 for the Glenwood Springs Planned Parenthood clinic in response to a politically motivated decision by Garfield County commissioners earlier this week to cut a grant to the organization.

Organizer Ashley Johnson of Carbondale indicated on her GoFundMe.com Web page that the goal of the campaign is now $15,000. If successful, that would be 10 times the amount of the $1,500 county human services grant that was eliminated by commissioners Monday.

That decision, led by Commissioner Tom Jankovsky over his concerns about what he referred to as "partisan, political" messages being sent out by Planned Parenthood's political advocacy affiliate in Colorado, prompted significant public reaction on social media after the story broke in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

The grant that was to go to Planned Parenthood's Glenwood clinic for cancer screening was part of a package of 2016 county human-services grants totaling more than $430,000.

As of Thursday evening, the GoFund Me site had raised $13,200 from 170 individual donors.

Johnson could not be reached for comment, but indicated on the website that she was opening a donations account at Wells Fargo Bank where anyone not wanting to donate online can contribute in person.

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She is planning to present a check Nov. 16 for whatever amount is raised to Glenwood clinic manager Rebecca Murray Nichols, and invited supporters to be on-hand for the event.

Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains based in Denver, said she's not surprised by the outpouring of support.

"It's easy to understand when you begin to know some of the numbers," Cowart said. "Two out of every five American women have come to Planned Parenthood for health care services sometime in their lives. So everybody knows someone who has benefited from our services."

Private donations in general to support Planned Parenthood are up, she said, "because people do have a sense that we are being persecuted and attacked."

"There are extremist politicians out there who want to deny access to health care services provided by Planned Parenthood, and we're seeing that the communities we serve don't want to see that happen," Cowart said.

Jankovsky acknowledged during Monday's meeting that the low-income women's health clinic provides needed services. But the nonprofit human service grant recipients are not supposed to engage in political activities, he said.

Long the target of anti-abortion activists, due to abortions being among the many services provided by the clinics, Planned Parenthood also has come under fire more recently from conservative politicians over allegations that it sells fetal tissue at a profit. State and national affiliates of the organization have adamantly denied those allegations.

But the concerns have led some Republicans in Congress and at the state level to call for ending all taxpayer support for the organization.

Cowart reiterated that the nonprofit Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which operates the many clinics in the region, can engage in some lobbying as long as its not partisan.

The affiliated but separately organized, member-supported Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado can legally take political stands and encourage people to vote a certain way on political issues or for particular candidates, she said.

"Things have gotten political," Cowart said. "We don't want it to be, we just want to provide health care, and I hope the county commissioners will see what's happening with this reaction as a sign that Planned Parenthood fundamentally provides services that are good for women and good for the communities we serve."

The Garfield County grant was to go to support cervical cancer screening services provided by the local clinic. In addition, the local clinics provide testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV as well as contraception and sex education outreach to teens.

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