Defunding Planned Parenthood

February has been a momentous month in Washington with respect to defending innocent human life from abortion.

On the negative side, last Friday [February 18, 2011] President Barrack Obama rescinded a 2008 executive order by President Bush that protected the conscience rights of medical students and health care workers from having to participate in immoral activities that violate their consciences. Pres. Bush’s order also gave those whose rights had been violated clear recourse in the government to have their rights vindicated. President Obama’s action, done with almost surreptitious silence at the beginning of the President’s Day holiday weekend — when the attention of most citizens and media members was on the revolutions occurring in the Middle East, the legislation being passed in the House, or on upcoming school vacations with children — also seemed to expose something about his conception of presidential leadership: that he, sadly, doesn’t have a high respect for protecting the conscience of health care workers. Rather, he acted on a promise he had made to the abortion lobby to strip away protections preventing health care workers from being forced, at the risk of losing their jobs, to participate in practices that they believe violate human dignity — for example, being compelled to dispense abortion-inducing morning after pills or contraception. Despite his pro-choice rhetoric, the President and his pro-abortion allies do not believe that health care workers should have the right to choose to follow their consciences instead of violating the first principle of medical ethics, primum non nocere, first do no harm.

Thankfully, there are some elected leaders in Washington who do respect and seek to protect the consciences of those who elected them. The new pro-life majority in the House of Representatives have acted on several pieces of legislation in the last few weeks intended not only to protect the conscience rights of health care workers but also to protect all citizens from having to cooperate in the evil of abortion through their taxes.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Feb. 15 approved the “Protect Life Act” (H.R. 358), which would amend last year’s health care reforms to prevent federal funds from being used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services; to impede any federal, state or local government agency that receives federal funds from discriminating against an individual or agency who refuses to participate in abortion procedures or training; and to establish recourse protocols when individuals or entities believe their rights are being threatened or have been violated. On Feb. 1, the same House Committee also held hearings on the “Abortion Non-Discrimination Act” (H.R. 361), a bill designed specifically to protect health care workers and institutions from suffering on account of their refusal to participate in abortion procedures and training and give them adequate recourse for redress. These protections are needed not only in view of President Obama’s executive order but because of the concerted effort by the pro-abortion lobby and the American Civil Liberties Union to have present federal laws interpreted in such a way as to compel Catholic Hospitals to provide abortions and other “life-saving care.” As Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania noted, President Obama’s executive order “demonstrated exactly why we need to have strong conscience protection for health workers written into our laws. Without legal protection, we can certain expect even more bureaucratic assaults on the conscience of medical workers.”

There were also hearings held Feb. 8 in the House Judiciary Committee on the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R. 3), which would prohibit any federal funds being used for abortion, for health care plans that cover abortions, and for health care services or facilities that include abortions — essentially making the Hyde Amendment, which has been included in all Labor, Health and Human Services bills for the past three and a half decades a federal statute that applies to all federal appropriations bills. This Act is designed to eliminate a loophole to last year’s health care reforms that pro-abortion Democrats in the Senate craftily constructed in order to fund abortions, since the health care reforms were outside of the orbit of the Hyde Amendment.  Like H.R. 358 and H.R. 361, H.R. 3 also prevents discrimination against individuals and entities that refuse to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions and it establishes concrete recourses when they suffer on account of that refusal.

The furthest reaching pro-life advances, however, happened at the level of full House when it passed the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 1) on Feb. 19. Included in this legislation that funds all government departments and agencies were amendments that, among other things, would permanently restrict U.S. funds for population assistance to those countries unless they agree not to promote or perform abortions; strip funding from the United Nation’s Population Fund (UNFPA), which facilitates abortions in developing countries through the U.N., including China’s brutal “one child policy”; stop paying for abortions in the District of Columbia; and remove all federal funding from Planned Parenthood.

The amendment that has by far caught the most attention so far has been the one introduced by Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana that would prohibit any federal funds from going to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Passed 240-185 by the House, this Amendment has been called by Planned Parenthood “the most dangerous legislative assault in our history” and the organization has been mounting a nationwide effort to try to persuade Senators to seek to overturn it. Planned Parenthood has with characteristic duplicity sought to portray the House vote as one eliminating federal funding for “birth control, cancer screenings, HIV testing and other life-saving care,” but it fails even to mention the principle and most lucrative part of its business: the grisly practice of abortion.

A third of Planned Parenthood’s annual budget comes through government grants ($363.2 million in 2008-2009). Rep. Pence has said that by banning funding the House of Representatives has “taken a stand for millions of Americans who believe their tax dollars should not be used to subsidize the largest abortion provider in America.” In other words, if Planned Parenthood would like to receive federal funds for its other programs, “they ought not be in the business of providing abortions. As long as they aspire to do that, I’ll be after them,” Congressman Pence promised. In 2008, Planned Parenthood performed 328,300 abortions, which was one-quarter of all the abortions done in the United States and is roughly equivalent to the population of all cities and towns within the Diocese of Fall River combined. While federal dollars cannot go directly to paying for abortions in Planned Parenthood facilities, it can go to underwriting all of their other operating expenses, freeing up other funds to perform abortions, encourage promiscuity and other types of behavior that lead to abortions, and lobby for even more funds.

In recent days, Planned Parenthood has been getting exposed for the type of organization it really is. A powerful new book entitled “Unplanned” by Abby Johnson, a former director of Planned Parenthood’s largest facility in the western hemisphere (Houston), documents in the first person just how driven Planned Parenthood is to increase its abortion business and remorsefully describes the grisly details of the work she did there. Undercover video stings in New Jersey and Virginia by Live Action have shown Planned Parenthood employees aiding and abetting international child-trafficking and prostitution, advising an undercover “pimp” how to secure abortions for underage prostitutes and to return them to the streets as soon as possible. Despite its lip service to the contrary, Planned Parenthood demonstrated no intention to follow the law and turn over to the authorities even child-traffickers and those who exploit 14 year-old girls into prostitution. As a confirmation of this criminal and immoral negligence, a 107-count criminal case against Planned Parenthood in Johnson County, Kansas, is now proceeding to trial. It includes 23 felony charges related to the manufacturing of evidence to cover-up failure to report child-abuse discovered when underage girls came in to abort babies fathered by much older men.

It’s about time that the U.S. Congress prevented morally corrupt organizations like Planned Parenthood from receiving our tax dollars.  It’s about time that the U.S. Congress started to act on widespread consensus to make abortion “rare,” by seeking to eliminate any subsidies for abortions or abortion-promoting businesses. And 38 years after Roe v. Wade, it’s also about time U.S. citizens got the type of representation we’ve been receiving since the new Congress was sworn in.

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About the Author

Father Roger J. Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, who works for the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations. He is the former pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River, Massachusetts and St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

After receiving a biology degree from Harvard College, he studied for the priesthood in Maryland, Toronto and for several years in Rome. After being ordained a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Fall River by Bishop Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap. on June 26, 1999, he returned to Rome to complete graduate work in Moral Theology and Bioethics at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.

Fr. Landry writes for many Catholic publications, including a weekly column for The Anchor, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River, for which he was the executive editor and editorial writer from 2005-2012. He regularly leads pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy Land, Christian Europe and other sacred destinations and preaches several retreats a year for priests, seminarians, religious and lay faithful. He speaks widely on the thought of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, especially John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. He was an on-site commentator for EWTN’s coverage of the 2013 papal conclave that elected Pope Francis, appears often on various Catholic radio programs, and is national chaplain for Catholic Voices USA.

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1 Comment

  1. In the interest of absolute correctness, I wanted to point out that Abby was director not of the clinic in Houston, which is indeed Planned Parenthood’s largest abortion facility in the western hemisphere, but of the abortion clinic in Bryan/College Station, about an hour and a half north of Houston. It’s a fairly unassuming looking place, now neighboring the office of the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life and the building for the upcoming Centeral Texas Orphan and Mission Alliance (CTOMA) building which will soon offer adoption and sonogram services for women right next door!

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