On Thursday, October 8th, Action News 5 reported that “Planned Parenthood is at the center of controversy after being accused by the Memphis Catholic Diocese of trying to move too close to Memphis Catholic High School.” The Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region, which has been located for more than 30 years at the Mid-Memphis Tower building at 1407 Union Avenue, plans to move to 1750 Madison Avenue sometime in the spring of 2010. The women’s health care provider is being forced to move because its office space on the building’s third floor has been leased to UT Medical Group. After an exhaustive site search, Planned Parenthood’s administration settled on the Madison Professional Building, a six-story office building located at Madison Avenue between Evergreen and Idlewild.
It just so happens that the 1750 Madison Avenue location is a mile closer to Memphis Catholic High School than Planned Parenthood’s current location. While proximity to the Catholic school had nothing to do with the planned move, the Diocese of Memphis is protesting and threatening to mount a petition campaign to block the move. According to the Action News 5 story, Father John Geaney of the Diocese of Memphis said, “Anytime you are educating children we want to be able to make sure they receive what we understand to be the way of the good Christian approach to life, and having Planned Parenthood that close is not helping that.”
The Planned Parenthood health center and offices will be located on the top floor of the Madison Professional Building, which is also home to a pharmacy and a number of other medical offices. It’s hardly something the Catholic High School students will stumble upon while walking home from school. In fact, the current Planned Parenthood location is just half a mile away from Central High School and .8 miles away from Grace St. Luke’s Episcopal School. Planned Parenthood has never received any complaints from teachers, administrators or parents of students at those schools.
Planned Parenthood chose the 1750 Madison location because it is a prime location near the center of Midtown Memphis—conveniently close to its mostly inner-city clientele, not because of its proximity to Catholic High School. Midtown Memphis is a densely populated area, home to many schools, churches, businesses and medical facilities. It would be difficult to find a Midtown location that is not close to one school or another.The real issue here is not the new location’s proximity to the school—since Planned Parenthood’s current location is a scant 2 miles away from Catholic High School. If Catholic students were clamoring to go to Planned Parenthood for birth control or abortions, that 2 miles would not stop them. No, indeed, the real issue here is that the anti-choice movement wants to make this impending move as difficult as possible for Planned Parenthood. They would obviously like to see Planned Parenthood go out of business in Memphis. Not only because of the abortion issue—other clinics in Memphis also perform abortions. But Planned Parenthood also provides free and low-cost birth control to thousands of Mid-South women, most of them poor or uninsured, while also providing routine gynecological care and STD testing and treatment.
Everyone knows the Catholic Church’s stance on birth control, though it should be noted that many Catholics openly disagree with the Church’s teachings on that subject. But without the birth control provided by Planned Parenthood, it’s likely there would be many more unplanned pregnancies in the Memphis area. And with a teen birth rate that is already one of the highest in the country, that’s the last thing Memphis needs. Please watch this space for more information, I will keep you posted.