Ottawa charity declines Sens Foundation help amid anti-abortion flap

An Ottawa charity facing controversy over its anti-abortion philosophy says it does not want to hurt the positive image of the Ottawa Senators Foundation, and will therefore turn down funding raised at Ottawa Senators games.

An Ottawa charityfacing controversy over its anti-abortionphilosophysays it does not want to hurt the positive image ofthe Ottawa Senators Foundation, and willtherefore turn downfunding raised at Ottawa Senators games.

First Place Pregnancy Centre said it recognizes "the incredible work and generosity" of theSens Better Halves, the wives and girlfriends of the Ottawa Senators, who chose the centre as one of three charities they would supportby selling raffle tickets at Senators home gamesbetween Nov. 29 and Dec. 22.

"However, we do not wish to interfere in even the most indirect way with the Foundation's positive image and valuable contribution to our community," said Terri Mazik, the centre's executive director, in a statementThursday.

The centre, which declined interviews withCBC News,describes itself as a "non-profit and non-political" agency that offers support to people facing unplanned pregnancy.

Theraffle — which offers the chance to win aChristmas tree decorated with Senators items including some signed by the players — had been surrounded by controversy after Planned Parenthood Ottawa, a pro-choice group, went to the media accusing the thecentre ofnot supporting a woman's right to choose an abortion.

The Ottawa Senators Foundation, which willmatch the money raised by the Sens Better Halves,respects the centre's decision to withdraw from the fundraiser, said a statement issued by spokesman Brian Morris Thursday.

Roger's House, which provides care for terminally ill children, will now be the third charity supported by the fundraiser, along with Kids Help Phone and Harmony House.

The foundation also declined to be interviewed.

Planned Parenthood went public

The controversy began when Planned Parenthoodissued a news release Nov. 27 saying it "is concerned that generous Senators fans contributing to this fundraising campaign may do so without knowing that a portion of their donations is going to support an anti-choice organization."

Stéphanie Piché, executive director of Planned Parenthood Ottawa, said the centre, which has a web page that advertises "real choice," is not up-front about the fact that it discourages women from choosing abortion.

"So it looks like it's a very pro-choice organization," she said, adding that some former First Place Clients called her own organization complaining that the centre would not provide abortion information.

Piché said she had contacted the Ottawa Senators Foundation to ask about their choice of charity.

"They replied saying that they were fully aware of their values and that they supported what First Place Pregnancy Centre was doing," she said.

No referrals to abortion services

The centre itself responded to Planned Parenthood's media campaign with a news release that saidin fact, thecentre plainly states that it does not provide referrals to abortion services.

However, it does "provide complete and accurate information on abortion and[does] allow each woman to make her own decision in a non-judgmental, compassionate environment."

According to the website for Bethel Pentacostal Church, whichprovides financial support forFirst Place, the centre exists to provide women with an alternative to abortion and assists women who are facing an unwanted pregnancy by providing services such as counselling, maternity and baby clothing, and "sanctity of human life education."

This week, thecentre pulled some controversial links about abortion and birth control from its website after articles such as one by columnist Heather Mallick, whoreportedthe links includeda story comparing corporations that make birth control drugs to the Jewish Holocaust and a storyby ananonymous authorwith the headline:"One baby in 30 left alive after medical abortion."