Group protests new facility
A new six-story building that will become the Houston Planned Parenthood headquarters is being constructed on the Gulf Freeway less than a mile from the UH campus. Protesters gathered around the construction site Friday and Saturday to voice their disapproval of the construction of the facility, which will dwarf the Planned Parenthood on Fannin Street.
Pro-life advocates such as the Houston Area Pastor Council protested the building because of the abortion services that will be performed in its clinics. Aside from becoming the largest Planned Parenthood in Houston, controversy surrounds this new building because it will perform late-term abortions Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla said.
‘Late-term abortions are necessary for different reasons, depending on the individual. Sometimes birth-defects can be discovered later on in the pregnancy, or sometimes a woman’s health is at risk because of the pregnancy,’ Tafolla said.
The Fannin Street branch performs abortions up to the week 16 of pregnancy, whereas the new location will be able to do perform the procedure up to the week 20.
There are many design changes that will take place in order to better serve patients, Tafolla said. To perform late-term abortions, a facility must be equipped with an ambulatory surgical center, according to a law passed in 2003, a facility that the building’s size will accommodate.
‘There will be integrated parking in order to protect patients from the remarks made by protesters,’ Tafolla said. ‘It’s already a nerve-wracking experience. We want this facility to provide the best experience possible during a time that can be stressful for some patients.’
The current layout at the Fannin Street location requires patients to walk across the street from a separate parking lot. On days with active protests, volunteer escorts walk patients to and from their cars in order to provide protection from the expressive remarks of protesters
Planned Parenthood provides many services to the community including birth control, sex education, family planning and health care services according to their Web site. A volunteer escort at the location on Fannin said that sometimes protesters can make false attributions to the nature of a patient’s visit to the clinic and say anti-abortion phrases to a person who is not even pregnant.
UH student groups hold opposing views on the construction of the facility, although the four members of Voices for Planned Parenthood contacted either refused to comment or were unavailable.
‘Most people who are pro-life would be opposed to any clinic that performs abortions,’ senior finance and accounting student and former member of Pro-Life Cougars Zachary Waller said. ‘Abortion should only be performed when the woman’s life is at risk.’
Waller said he finds it troubling that a clinic practicing late-term abortions even exists.
‘One could argue that (the fetus) is nothing more than a collection of cells. But if it is considered as a living being, then you are taking a life, killing a living creature.’
Service needs have out-grown the Fannin Street building, making the new building necessary in order to provide health care for everyone in a more time-efficient manner. Some benefits of the new location include accessibility from the freeway, proximity to a bus station, and increased visibility, Tafolla said.