Planned Parenthood crowdfunding nears $24,000
Ashley Johnson never imagined the kind of response she’d get when she launched an online fundraising campaign for the local Planned Parenthood clinic following a politically motivated decision by Garfield County commissioners to cut grant funding.
Her effort that began two weeks ago with a goal of replacing the $1,500 cut quickly gained momentum.
As of Monday, the GoFundMe.com “Hear our voice. Fund women’s health” site had raised $23,450 among 281 donors. Another $325 was donated via a separate Wells Fargo Bank benefit account, according to Johnson.
“I feel so honored to be a part of this, it’s been such an eye-opening experience,” Johnson said Monday in presenting a symbolic check for $25,000 to Rebecca Murray, manager for Planned Parenthood Glenwood Springs Health Center in West Glenwood.
“I’m thrilled to call you my neighbors,” Johnson said before a gathering of about two dozen people who braved the snow and cold to show their support.
Johnson said the GoFundMe site would remain active “until people stop donating.” The current goal is $25,000.
Murray said the money will be used to support the local health center’s Client In-Need Fund, which helps defray costs for a range of services.
That includes testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, contraception and “life-saving” cancer screenings.
“It’s just been overwhelming,” Murray said of the surprise donation that resulted from Johnson’s effort. “It truly shows the strength of our community, and that we support Planned Parenthood and are going to make our voices heard.”
The money raised is more than 16 times the amount of the county human services grant that was eliminated.
HOW IT STARTED
Earlier this month, county commissioners cut the grant from a package of some $432,000 in human services grants over concerns about some of the political activities of Planned Parenthood-affiliated organizations related to the nationwide abortion debate.
Republican Commissioner Tom Jankovsky led the move to do away with the grant, saying he had become increasingly concerned about what he called “partisan” attacks in emails and mailings sent out by groups including Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.
The 501(c)(4) is a separately organized but affiliated political action arm of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that operates the local clinics around the state, including the one in Glenwood.
Jankovsky said Monday that he’s glad private donors stepped up to support a service that he said he also believes provides a valuable service in Garfield County.
“I think it’s great that they’re doing that,” he said. “Our decision on funding didn’t mean we didn’t want Planned Parenthood to continue.”
Rather, he said human services grants are intended mostly for locally based, nonpolitical organizations. He said he and the other commissioners felt Planned Parenthood’s state and national affiliates had crossed that line.
“I do think they need to do this more than one year,” Jankovsky said of the local fundraising effort. “They need to do this every year.”
Johnson said she would like to see it become an annual effort. But she also would like to get a group of people together to approach the commissioners about reinstating grant funding for Planned Parenthood.
Those who came out to show their support Monday agreed.
“I support Planned Parenthood because they supported me as a woman over the years when I was uninsured and needed birth control,” said Alison Birkenfeld of Glenwood Springs, who was joined by her parents, Gwen and Norman Vaughan.
“Abortion is such a small part of what Planned Parenthood does,” Gwen Vaughan said, adding the contraceptive and sex education programs for teens are intended to prevent abortion by preventing unwanted pregnancies.
The Planned Parenthood clinic in Glenwood Springs provides abortion care if requested, Murray said, by administering the abortion pill up to 10 weeks gestation. Anyone seeking an abortion between 10 and 17 weeks is referred to Denver, she said.
Jane Holt of Rifle said she came out in support of Planned Parenthood as a three-time survivor of cervical cancer.
“I just think it’s outrageous that the county commissioners didn’t give money for these important cancer screenings,” Holt said. “I was fortunate that I had insurance, but many women don’t.”
Local chiropractor Blake McDonald said the services Planned Parenthood provides for low-income clients is crucial.
“This is something that this valley really needs,” McDonald said, adding the private medical providers are simply too expensive for some people.
“It’s hard for some people to get affordable health care,” he said. “And it’s great to see the town come out and support this.”
Barbara Orcutt, who used to teach at the alternative Bridges High School in Carbondale, said the sex education services provided by Planned Parenthood definitely made a difference for some of her students.
“So many teenagers, both girls and boys, don’t have reliable information, and often they don’t have family support,” Orcutt said. “Without Planned Parenthood we would see a huge increase in teen pregnancies in this valley.”
Long the target of anti-abortion activists due to abortions being among the many services provided by Planned Parenthood clinics, the organization has also 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.
The concerns have led some Republicans in Congress and at the state level to call for ending Medicaid support for those using Planned Parenthood’s health services.
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Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon will continue to be closed due to “extreme damage” from the latest round of heavy rain and flooding Saturday night, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced Sunday afternoon.