Donald J. Devine, the Reagan administration's personnel chief and an ardent opponent of abortion, "reluctantly" interceded yesterday to stop a federal panel from kicking Planned Parenthood out of the government's annual charity drive.
Devine, director of the Office of Personnel Management, said through a spokesman that he would overrule the recommended ouster of the family planning and abortion rights group because, in his opinion, Planned Parenthood meets the newly issued criteria for inclusion in the Combined Federal Campaign.
"As much as I agree with the panel's view that Planned Parenthood, because of its role in promoting the detestable practice of abortion, should not receive funds by this route, I am legally bound to admit an organization which meets the technical membership requirements," Devine said.
But the OPM director, whose intercession surprised Planned Parenthood officials almost as much as their proposed ouster had, called the matter of the group's participation in future federal charity drives "ripe for a legislative solution . . . "
The recommendation to deny membership in the charity drive to Planned Parenthood came after an all-day hearing yesterday by the National Eligibility Committee, which met to decide who would be allowed to participate in the 1982 campaign for charitable funds.
Last year, the campaign raised $87 million, $12 million of which was collected among federal workers in the Washington area. A Planned Parenthood spokesman said yesterday the group had raised nearly $800,000 last year through the national campaign.
The committee, whose eight members were appointed by Devine, voted to admit 110 individual national charity organizations and six national umbrella groups, including the United Way. Only Planned Parenthood was recommended for exclusion, by a vote of 4 to 2. In its recommendation, the panel said Planned Parenthood had failed to "earn good will and acceptability thoughout the United States," a criterion for admission.
Devine said the final list of campaign participants includes all the national groups that had expressed concerns about their campaign eligibility. That "proves" OPM's assurance that the new regulations would allow the widest possible choice of charities for federal workers who contribute through payroll deductions, Devine said.
At the same time, the OPM director said he was "pleased to welcome" to the campaign such new member conservative organizations as the National Right to Life Educational Foundation, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund and the Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund.
OPM, which was caught off guard by the committee's exclusion of Planned Parenthood, said it would follow another panel recommendation that the family planning group and a few others be audited as to the source and amount of public and private contributions received. At least 20 percent of a group's support must come from private donations to be eligible to join the campaign.
Planned Parenthood officials said they have satisfied previous audits and that Devine's decision had "saved OPM, the CFC, the Reagan administration and us a lot of grief and lawsuits." Faye Wattleton, president of the 68-year-old organization, said there was no question the group "enjoys much good will and acceptability" among Americans and legally qualifies for the charity drive.