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Partial birth

Abortion | A year-long contractors' boycott forces Planned Parenthood to cut the ribbon on an unfinished abortion center in Austin, Texas

Issue: "Kerry praying for votes," Oct. 9, 2004

AUSTIN -- It's Sept. 23 and William Truict service manager at Brake Check in Austin, Texas, is wondering about his new neighbor, the Choice Project. People from Planned Parenthood's new flagship facility have already made nice with the folks at Brake Check, one day bringing over barbecue for lunch. Today is the Choice Project's ribbon-cutting ceremony, so the slice of Planned Parenthood property behind Mr. Truict's shop looks downright festive: white open-air tent, rows of white folding chairs, balloons and ribbon in yellow and bubble-gum pink.

"I have a question," Mr. Truict asks a reporter who stopped in at Brake Check to gauge local reaction to the new facility. "Do they actually do abortions there?"

"Yes," says the reporter. "They also provide other healthcare services to women."

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"Oh. I was under the impression that they didn't. So they actually do abortions there . . ." Mr. Truict says, staring off.

"What did you think they did?" the reporter asks.

"Help plan families."

Smiley-face marketing had promoted the Choice Project as a sturdy, inviting, one-stop-shop for women's reproductive healthcare, so Mr. Truict's impression isn't surprising. But despite the balloons and a national public-relations effort, the words "Planned Parenthood" and "abortion" remain linked. Nationally, the federally funded group performs 225,000 abortions annually, with a reported yearly income of over $690 million.

Even all that cash couldn't keep the construction on schedule at Planned Parenthood's newest Texas facility-or put out the prairie fire that, ribbon-cutting aside, will keep the facility from opening its doors on time. Texas Contractors and Suppliers for Life, a grassroots pro-life group, organized an unprecedented construction boycott that hampered Planned Parenthood's progress for nearly a year-and triggered a wave of similar pro-life boycotts across the state.

At last week's ribbon-cutting, the Austin boycott's most obvious effect was the gaping void where the administration and education wing should've been standing. So desperate was Planned Parenthood to fill that space with concrete (and thereby avoid holding the Sept. 23 ceremony near a giant hole in the ground), it offered suppliers $200 per yard of concrete-four times its value-to pour a foundation. For weeks, no supplier took the bait. But just three days before the ceremony, a company called Yarrington Concrete broke the boycott, trucking in the concrete on a Sunday night.

By now Planned Parenthood should be used to that kind of 11th-hour nip and tuck. Texas Contractors and Suppliers for Life (TCSL), headed by no-nonsense concrete contractor and pro-life activist Chris Danze, last fall convinced 18 Austin-area concrete companies to refuse to supply concrete for the Choice Project. The boycott, which spread to other trades, finally drove away from the project the state's top general contractor, Browning Construction. The boycott delayed construction for months.

In January Planned Parenthood recruited another general contractor, Austin local Curtis Cline. It subcontracted slab-pouring to a financially and legally troubled concrete supplier who decided to provide the concrete for the 25,000-square-foot facility. Under cover of darkness on Jan. 28, trucks rolled onto the Choice Project job site and poured concrete from Rainbow Materials, whose owner, Ramon Carrasquillo, has faced prosecution for water pollution and related environmental violations.

After the boycott-breaking pour, Rainbow's sales numbers climbed. When CapMetro, the Austin area's mass transit authority, needed 14 acres of thick, reinforced concrete for a new bus-maintenance facility, Rainbow scored a significant portion of the plum contract, which was controlled by Curtis Cline.

Whether a quid pro quo connection existed between the bus-company contract and Rainbow's rescuing Mr. Cline from his Choice Project concrete dilemma is unclear. But federal authorities received complaints that Mr. Cline, in managing the bus-company contract, violated set-aside requirements designed to assist minority and disadvantaged businesses. Officials on Aug. 4 quietly removed from the project Mr. Cline and his concrete subcontractors, including Rainbow Materials.

Former Rainbow executives Mark Hamilton and Curtis Bruner have said that Mr. Carasquillo hoped to salvage his own business by supplying the Choice Project concrete. He abandoned the boycott, they said, after receiving a phone call from someone who promised to make his legal and financial problems "go away." Mr. Carrasquillo denies that. After nine months of public silence, he told WORLD that he decided to sell the concrete because he was obligated to protect the livelihood of his 100 employees and the well-being of their families.

Friends, colleagues, and opponents describe him as kind and generous. He describes himself as a devout Catholic who grew up in Catholic schools and still goes to mass every Sunday where his daughter is an altar girl. He said he "detests" abortion, but makes allowances in cases of rape or poverty.

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