Planned Parenthood of New York City offered women free abortions and other related services as a response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

The goal of the offer, good for 12 days in September, was “to reach out to women who have been displaced and ease their fears,” the group said in a press release.

“Everyone wants to do something,” spokesperson Ali Bartolone said in the statement. “This is our response; this is our way of helping women in need.”

Pro-life groups insisted, however, that the offer amounted to exploitation.

“It’s outrageous that they think they would be helping hurting women by killing their babies,” said J.T. Finn, editor-in-chief of LoveMatters.com, a publication of Pro-Life America in Redondo Beach, Calif.

The Rev. Frank Pavone, a Roman Catholic priest who advises Pro-Life America, wrote in a promotional letter that “while churches and non-profit groups rushed spiritual help, medical aid, food and funds to the victims, Planned Parenthood was bringing more death into their lives.”

Pavone, noting media reports, said the number of young, single pregnant girls may have increased sharply because of the terrorist attacks. A Los Angeles Times story of Oct. 1 titled “Perhaps the Most Primal Post-Disaster Reaction: Sex,” quoted experts who said the impulse to sleep with someone, even a stranger, is widespread after a tragedy.

Planned Parenthood of New York City said its health centers were booked to capacity during the time of the offer, Sept. 18 to 29. Services given out free along with surgical abortion included gynecological care, birth control, emergency contraception, STD and HIV testing and counseling.

A group called Stop Planned Parenthood, or STOPP International, accused PPNYC of trying “to garner some cheap publicity during this time of national crisis.”

The Virginia-based pro-life group noted that during the refugee crisis in Kosovo, Planned Parenthood provided refugees with emergency contraception, the so-called morning-after pill, which drew criticism from the Vatican because the pills often are abortive.

“Does anyone suppose a baby going through a partial birth abortion, or a saline abortion, or a suction abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic suffers any less terror than did the victims of September 11?” STOPP asked in the January issue of its publication, “The Ryan Report.”

STOPP noted that according to Planned Parenthood’s own figures, some 182,854 children were aborted in 1999. That means – based on the early estimate of 6,000 deaths in New York – that Planned Parenthood “killed about 30 times more human beings in 1999 than died in the tragedy on September 11,” STOPP concluded.

Planned Parenthood reported a total of 2,608,362 abortions from 1977 through 1999. The group performs about 15 percent of all abortions in the U.S., according to STOPP.

The average first-trimester abortion costs about $350 at Planned Parenthood. In 1999, the group took in an all-time high of $64 million from abortions, according to STOPP, which comprised about 29 percent of its total clinic income.

Gloria Feldt, president of the national organization, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued a statement comparing the Sept. 11 event to attacks on abortion providers.

“We at Planned Parenthood have lived and worked for many years with the threat of terrorism,” she wrote. “Sadly this is now a bond we share with the entire nation.”

Joan Malin, CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City said in her statement regarding the impact of the WTC terrorist attacks that the “characteristics of New Yorkers – our energy, individuality, and diversity – will hold us in good stead.”

“I do not think it is an accident that women’s equality and reproductive freedom grew and were nurtured here,” Malin said. “As protectors and promoters of reproductive freedom, we are forever indebted to these characteristics, which fostered the reproductive rights movement a century ago. The tragic events of September 11th will not alter or diminish this legacy.”

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