The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stridently denounced abortion in his public speaking and his writing, according to his niece, who has been invited by a local anti-abortion group to speak in the Quad-Cities on Thursday.
Alveda King, a longtime anti-abortion advocate, said the slain civil rights icon even declined the first Margaret Sanger Award in 1966 because he didn’t approve of the organization Sanger founded, Planned Parenthood.
“He didn’t accept the award in person, and he also didn’t accept the award on principle,” the 62-year-old said in a telephone interview Tuesday from her home in Atlanta.
Coretta Scott King, whom Alveda King called “pro-choice,” attended the 1966 Margaret Sanger Award ceremony in place of her husband, she said.
Planned Parenthood’s website confirms that Coretta Scott King accepted the award on her husband’s behalf.
Although Planned Parenthood didn’t perform abortions until the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure in 1973, the Rev. Mr. King was a believer in natural family planning and opposed Planned Parenthood’s work in “artificial” contraception, Alveda King said.
Since 1973, abortion has been a “cash cow” for Planned Parenthood, she added.
Planned Parenthood’s longtime leader in Iowa disputed King’s statements.
“Ms. King’s claims against Planned Parenthood are not based in fact or evidence,” Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland covers four states including Iowa.
More than 97 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are preventive, including annual check-ups, breast exams, life-saving cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, pap tests, birth control and emergency contraception, June said.
“We also provide comprehensive sexual education to help young people and adults stay safe and prevent pregnancy if they are not ready,” she said.
June’s statement didn’t answer a question about the number of abortions performed at Planned Parenthood’s Bettendorf clinic.
Quad-City anti-abortion demonstrator Jeanne Wonio of Davenport said she and others are outside the Bettendorf clinic at 2751 Tech Drive every Tuesday, the day she said the clinic performs surgical abortions.
Wonio volunteers for Helpers of God’s Precious Infants by praying on the sidewalk outside Planned Parenthood.
“We do not condemn, and we do not judge,” Wonio said. “We offer alternatives. We offer prayer.”
A parking lot stands in between the clinic and the demonstrators. Wonio said her volunteers do not approach women visiting the clinic, but if someone comes within earshot, they’ll talk to them about options to abortion, direct them to the Women’s Choice Center across the street and say they’re praying for them.
“I’ve been able to encourage a few girls to come across the street over the years,” Wonio said.
The Women’s Choice Center, a Christian-based ministry founded in 2002, is the organization that invited Alveda King to give the keynote speech at its fundraising banquet Thursday at Davenport’s RiverCenter.
Leigh Geramanis, director of development for the Women’s Choice Center, said although her organization is not affiliated with Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, it welcomes any woman seeking an alternative to abortion.
“We’re about helping women,” Geramanis said.
King applauded the work of the Women’s Choice Center, saying it offers “wonderful alternatives to abortion and harmful contraception.”
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Born on Jan. 22, 1951, the same day Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, King said her mother considered aborting her until her grandfather stepped in.
“My grandfather said, ‘You can’t abort that baby. She’s a little baby. I saw her in a dream three years before, and she’s going to be a blessing,’” King said.
The mother of six living children, King had two abortions and considered a third one before she was “born again” around 1982, she said.
“My granddaddy told me it’s not a blob of tissue,” she said. “He was able to talk me out of it.”
Considering herself a non-denominational Christian, King joined Priests for Life as its director of African-American outreach in the 1990s. She also served a term in the Georgia House of Representatives and is the author of “How Can the Dream Survive If We Murder the Children?”
In her writing and public speaking, Alveda King often links the civil rights movement with today’s anti-abortion efforts, saying her uncle did the same.
“He spoke out against infanticide,” she said. “In ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ he wrote that life is sacred, and you could see very clearly that he was including the unborn.”
She said her uncle, her father Alfred Daniel Williams King and her grandfather Martin Luther King Sr., all leaders in the civil rights movement, also were “pro-life” and believed life began at conception.
King said abortion is “genocide” of the black community and other ethnic groups.