Cardinal urges senators to back measure to defund Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON - The head of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee Aug. 3 urged U.S. senators to take the federal money that goes to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and instead fund women's health care providers that do not promote abortion.

"It has long been troubling to many Americans that the nation's largest abortion network, performing over a third of all abortions, receives over half a billion taxpayer dollars a year," said Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley.

"This concern has rightly grown in recent years," he wrote in a letter to the senators.

The cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged senators to support S. 1881, a measure that would defund Planned Parenthood and its affiliates.

Later that day, the Senate voted 53-46 to stop efforts Republicans said Democrats were using to delay and ultimately kill S. 1881. According to an AP story, 60 votes were needed to enable the defunding measure to move forward.

The Senate action came just days before Congress was to begin its August recess. AP said the House is expected to vote on a similar measure when Congress returns.

Cardinal O'Malley's letter followed the release in mid-July of videos of the organization's officials filmed undercover by a nonprofit California-based organization called the Center for Medical Progress.

"The most recent revelations about Planned Parenthood's willingness to traffic in fetal tissue from abortions, and to alter abortion methods not for any reason related to women's health but to obtain more 'intact' organs, is the latest demonstration of a callousness toward women and their unborn children that is shocking to many Americans," he said.

In two of the videos, top Planned Parenthood physicians describe how abortions are carried out to best salvage fetal tissue and organs for researchers and described a range of prices paid for different body parts.

A third video was of an interview with a technician talking about harvesting fetal body parts and included graphic footage.

A fourth video has now been released. A temporary restraining order issued by the Los Angeles Superior Court prohibits the Center for Medical Progress from releasing any video footage of interviews of officials from StemExpress, a California-based company that provides organs and tissue to researchers.

Planned Parenthood receives more than $500 million of its $1.3 billion annual budget from federal and state programs. According to 2013 data, the latest available, Planned Parenthood says abortions represent 3 percent of the total services its facilities provide, which include dispensing birth control and doing some women's health screenings.

In addition to Republicans in the House and Senate pushing for an end to federal funding of Planned Parenthood, several states have launched investigations into the organization.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement said that "allegations that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true." She later apologized for "the tone" the physicians used in describing abortion procedures and also argued the videos had been heavily edited to distort the truth.

In his letter, Cardinal O'Malley added: "The Catholic Church comes to this issue from a perspective rooted in experience. Catholic charitable agencies and pregnancy help centers have helped countless pregnant women find life-affirming alternatives to abortion."

Other Catholic leaders across the country have called for defunding Planned Parenthood.

In a July 31 statement, the Catholic bishops of Colorado set Aug. 28 aside as "a day of prayer and penance in response to Planned Parenthood's horrific actions and all those involved in the procurement and use of aborted baby organs."

"We call on all people of good will in Colorado and beyond to pray that those involved in research and medicine will fix their sights on recognizing the sacredness of life and refrain from putting human life at the service of science," they said. "A society can only be considered socially just if it protects the most vulnerable among us."

The bishops also noted that Colorado State University in Fort Collins was one of the entities that has used a procurement company to purchase fetal organs harvested during abortions.

Priests for Life announced Aug. 4 that a coalition of religious and pro-life groups plan to lead a "Week of Prayer to End the Evils of Planned Parenthood" Aug. 22-29. Several suggested prayers for the week have been posted at www.PrayerCampaign.org.

Ohio state Rep. Bill Patmon is among local lawmakers calling for defunding of Planned Parenthood. At the Ohio Statehouse July 29, a crowd cheered as the Cleveland Democrat said he would introduce a measure to strip state funds from the organization.

As an African-American, he also had sharp criticism for the Black Lives Matter movement, organized to protest what its leaders say are racist police tactics that target black Americans.

He expressed his outrage at the number of unborn black babies killed by abortion, compared to other races and labeled Black Lives Matter as hypocritical, saying the group needs to hold protests in front of Planned Parenthood facilities.

"What business is it of yours, Mr. Patmon, that 56 million unborn (are aborted)," he asked rhetorically. "It is my business, especially when 17 million of them are black women. 17 million - more than any other population (group) - 17 million that look and act and talk and are similar to myself. But even more than that, they're Americans and they're human beings!"

He also was critical of the term "African-American."

"I'm an American. I'm American. The Constitution applies to me. The Declaration applies to me. I don't need any adjectives, just get out of my way. No need for any adjectives," he said.

Contributing to this story was Abbey Jaroma.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015