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Auto dealer withdraws support for United Way because of Planned Parenthood link

Bill Marsh Auto Group has withdrawn its support from United Way. The decision was made after company leaders discovered United Way of Northwest Michigan provides funds to Planned Parenthood in Traverse City.

Bill Marsh Jr., a partner of the family-run auto group, says the decision was made based on his family’s values and was in no way an attempt to make a political statement. 

In the past employees of Bill Marsh Auto Group could make contributions to United Way through deductions taken directly from their paychecks. Marsh says of his 275 employees about 50 percent contributed to United Way.

Marsh stressed that employees can still choose to support United Way by donating directly to the organization.

"We are not in any way dissuading our people from choosing to support and give to the United Way or Planned Parenthood. We would never do that," he says.

Ranae McCauley, executive director of United Way of Northwest Michigan, says United Way provides funding for two specific programs at Planned Parenthood in Traverse City: cervical screening and STD prevention education. She says the money is not going to abortions or to the national Planned Parenthood organization.

Marsh understands that. But he says, “we just didn’t feel we could support that organization even if on a local level they’re not directly doing abortions, it’s still Planned Parenthood.”

Since Bill Marsh Auto Group made their decision to remove United Way from their workplace contribution program, Marsh says they’ve gotten a lot of support. They’ve also had some customers say they won’t use Bill Marsh Auto Group’s dealerships anymore.

"We’re not in business to make political statements and to create divisiveness," Marsh says, "but we also believe that we have to – if we are going to call ourselves a family of faith and a family with moral conviction, there are times when we have to stand for that. And if the consequences are good, great. And if they’re not good, we accept them."

Marsh added he respects the work of United Way. The respect is mutual. McCauley says, "every donor must make their own decision. It’s deeply personal, and it’s not our place to judge how they would do that."




Morgan Springer is a contributing editor and producer at Interlochen Public Radio. She previously worked for the New England News Collaborative as the host/producer of NEXT, the weekly show which aired on six public radio station in the region.