Dec. 3, 2008— -- This holiday season, Indiana's Planned Parenthood is offering an unusual stocking stuffer: gift certificates redeemable for health services at clinics throughout the state.
In these tough economic times, the organization says it made the move toward gift certificates because it is worried that more and more people will forgo basic health care.
"Women in particular are likely to forgo basic medical needs when faced with putting gas in their car or food on the table," said Planned Parenthood of Indiana's president and CEO, Betty Cockrum.
Planned Parenthood provides contraception, pap smears and other routine health services for women, as well as abortions. The gift certificates, ranging in values from $25 to $100, can be redeemed for all clinic services.
The Indiana branch is selling the gift certificates on its Web site, touting it as a way to give the gift of health this holiday season.
But the vouchers are sparking controversy. Some anti-abortion supporters see it as less about the gift of affordable health care and more about making a mockery of the holidays.
"This campaign to offer lethal gift certificates that Planned Parenthood is engaging in right now is offensive," said Sister Diane Carollo, director of the Office for Pro-Life Ministry for the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis. "And it's offensive because Christmas is about the celebration of human life."
Planned Parenthood is quick to argue some 95 percent of women who come to their clinics come for basic health services -- not abortion.
"It's about basic health care. It's about annual exams, it's about pap smears, it's about birth control," said Cockrum. "I would be amazed if a dime of it goes toward an abortion."
It's an issue that is spreading beyond Indiana. On ABC News.com today, opinions were mixed. One person wrote: "Wal-Mart gift cards can be used to buy alcohol and ammunition ... but nobody is outraged."
Another wrote: "Disgusting!!!!! I am pro choice, but gift certificates for abortion, sick, sick, sick!"
Planned Parenthood chapters in Illinois, New York, Alaska and Michigan are considering similar gift certificate programs for the holidays.
But if the organization expands this program, the more it is likely to inflame the never-ending fight over abortion during what is intended to be a peaceful holiday season.