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Published: Sunday, 8/1/2004

Tasteless T-shirt

Planned Parenthood Federation of America will regret the day it allowed an incredibly crass product to be hawked on its Web site. The product is a T-shirt designed by a New York woman as a means, apparently, to hype a documentary she is making called I Had an Abortion. The shirt features the same declaration in white letters on a dark background.

Jennifer Baumgardner says her friendship with Planned Parenthood chief Gloria Feldt led to Ms. Feldt's offer to sell the shirt at the agency's online home, an accommodation that was obviously made without much thought of the consequences.

Promoting the sale of a shirt for $15 which appears as nothing more than a boastful and defiant proclamation is sure to backfire on an organization that is such a lightning rod for the abortion controversy. Planned Parenthood is often the only gynecological health-care provider for low-to-moderate income women.

Besides providing abortion services or referrals for clients, the agency dispenses information and advice on everything from birth control to family planning. But by selling a shirt emblazoned with the "I had an abortion" message, Planned Parenthood opens itself up to legitimate attacks from pro-lifers who already take issue with the agency's pro-choice stand. We remain staunchly supportive of a woman's right to choose, but a decision so momentous should never be trivialized in such a manner.

Said Olivia Gan of American Victims of Abortion, an offshoot of the National Right to Life Committee, "It is really appalling that Planned Parenthood would suggest that women see this event in such a casual manner that we would be interested in trumpeting that down the streets of our neighborhood."

Ms. Baumgardner counters that her shirts are "not meant to be shocking" but rather "part of a bigger, political, and serious conversation." But they are shocking and have only provoked the same polarized opinions about abortion that always seem to preclude further discussion.

Why Planned Parenthood chose to stoke the embers of a heated, emotional issue by selling a product that makes even abortion rights supporters cringe is beyond us. Someone at the organization needs to answer for its surprising display of insensitivity and poor judgment.

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