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by Abigail Van Buren

Planned Parenthood Keeps Its Clients Fully Informed

DEAR ABBY: Until recently, I knew very little about Planned Parenthood. I thought of the organization as mostly performing abortions. I recently learned how wrong I was when a friend shared the experience her family had with Planned Parenthood.

My friend's daughter, "Suzy," was pregnant, and even though she and her husband wanted a family, they were unprepared to start one just then. Suzy was adamant about wanting to end her pregnancy.

Suzy's mother tried her best to convince her to have the baby, but to no avail, so she suggested Suzy make an appointment with a counselor at Planned Parenthood.

Several days passed before Suzy phoned her mother with the good news. The counselor had spoken with Suzy about her decision as well as other options, explaining the ramifications of each. Suzy went home and discussed them with her husband, and they decided together that she should NOT terminate the pregnancy.

I'm not sure whether Suzy will keep the baby or place it for adoption, but I was pleased to learn that the counselor took the time to see that Suzy was fully informed so she could make the right decision for herself and her family.

I hope you will agree that this is important enough to share with your readers. Please don't use my name, since I was told this in confidence. -- PLEASED IN THE SUNSHINE STATE

DEAR PLEASED: I do agree. Among the many low-cost, high-quality health-care services Planned Parenthood provides: screening for sexually transmitted diseases for both men and women; contraceptive counseling and services; sterilization consultation and procedures for men and women; instruction in testicular self-examination; prenatal care, which covers pregnancy and childbirth; and post-partum care, child-rearing and nutrition.

Suzy's experience was not unusual. However, due to hysteria and misinformation, Planned Parenthood's mission -- to promote individual reproductive rights, information, counseling and medical services without regard to age, race, income or marital status -- is sometimes misunderstood.

DEAR ABBY: My niece is pregnant with her first child. She and her husband have three indoor cats, one of which weighs 20 pounds. Our whole family is worried about this because she keeps saying, "Oh, my cats won't even bother with the baby. They don't care what's going on around them."

But, Abby, the cats have been her "babies" for years, and we're all afraid that they will get jealous of the new baby and smother it. Please help us to convince her how wrong she is. -- CONCERNED

DEAR CONCERNED: I consulted my animal expert, Dr. Erwin David. He tells me that in his many years of veterinary practice, he has not once come across a cat smothering a baby. That's a myth which should be put to rest.

However, he also urged that an infant should never be left unattended with ANY pet.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY ASIAN FRIENDS: It's the Year of the Tiger, and I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year. In years past, I have said, "Gung Hay Fat Choy," but several individuals wrote to say that is not correct for all Chinese. They suggested that I convey my wishes as follows: "Kung Hsi Fa Tsai," "Kung Ho Hsin Hsi," "Hsin Nien Kuai Le" and "San Ni Fei Lo." This year, to my Vietnamese readers, I'd like to add: "Chuc Mung Nam Moi."

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600