GOP urged to keep promise to defund PPFA

WASHINGTON (BP) -- Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore has joined other pro-life leaders in telling congressional Republicans it is "well past time to deliver" on their promise to defund Planned Parenthood.

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The Sept. 5 letter -- sent to all the GOP members of Congress -- urges them to adopt legislation that would remove most of the federal funding received by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates, which perform more than one-third of the abortions in the United States. The country's leading abortion provider has received more than $550 million annually in government grants and reimbursements in recent years.

“Planned Parenthood is not and has never been a ‘health-care’ organization,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), adding it is “a storefront that preys upon women in crisis, exploits families and devalues human life.

“It is well past time for Congress to hold Planned Parenthood accountable,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments, “and to care for women and children by directing taxpayer dollars toward community health centers that protect women and children, not prey upon them.”

Mallory Quigley -- communications director for the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, which organized the effort -- told BP in a written statement, "Defunding Planned Parenthood is a unifying issue for Republicans; meanwhile, Democrats are in the midst of an internal debate after their pro-abortion extremism cost them during the last two election cycles. Now is not the time for pro-life Republicans to give up. They must deliver.

"Taxpayers should have no part in the abortion business, and women and families would be better served by the holistic primary and preventative health-care centers that already outnumber Planned Parenthood by more than 20 to 1 nationwide," Quigley said.

In the letter, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, Moore and others remind Republicans of their promise to Americans to defund Planned Parenthood and of President Trump's commitment to sign such a proposal. Eight months after Trump's inauguration, the GOP-controlled Congress still has failed to do so, they say.

"The pro-life majority that now controls both chambers of Congress and the White House must pass a reconciliation bill stopping the vast majority of federal funding for Planned Parenthood," the letter says. "Doing anything less brings into question whether this Congress can truly be called the Pro-life Congress. Rhetoric must be translated into law."

The reconciliation process enables the Senate to approve a budget-related measure with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster.

In the last congressional session, both the Senate and House approved legislation to cut funding for Planned Parenthood by about 90 percent and direct it to federally qualified health centers that do not perform abortions. President Obama vetoed the measure, however.

The Senate fell short of even a simple majority in a July vote seeking what became known as a "skinny repeal" of the 2010 health-care law. The failed Senate proposal would have cut funding for Planned Parenthood for a year.

In their letter, Dannenfelser, Moore and the other signers say it is up to Congress to decide whether the reconciliation bill is a broad package or a narrow measure, "but giving up is not why the voters sent pro-life Republicans to Congress."

In addition to Dannenfelser and Moore, others signing the letter were Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council; Catherine Glenn Foster, president, Americans United for Life; Penny Young Nance, president, Concerned Women for America; Jeanne Mancini, president, March for Life Education and Defense Fund; Kristan Hawkins, president, Students for Life; Lila Rose, president, Live Action; Gary Bauer, president, American Values; and Paul Weber, president, Family Policy Alliance.

Planned Parenthood's 2015-16 annual report, released this May, showed its affiliates performed 328,348 abortions for the year, an increase of about 4,300 of the lethal procedures from the previous year. While its number of abortions increased, Planned Parenthood reported a sizable decline in such services as prenatal care and breast exams.

The non-profit continued to prosper financially, reaching $1.4 billion in total revenue. During the year ending June 30, 2016, PPFA and its affiliates received $554.6 million in grants and reimbursements from the federal and other levels of government. That was an increase of about $900,000 from the previous year.

The ERLC is conducting an online advertising campaign to rally support for federal defunding of the organization.

Messengers to June's SBC meeting in Phoenix adopted a resolution calling for defunding of Planned Parenthood at all levels of government and denouncing the organization's "immoral agenda and practices."

Backing for the defunding effort in Congress has grown in response to the latest scandal to mar Planned Parenthood's reputation. A series of undercover videos first released in 2015 appeared to provide evidence Planned Parenthood was trading in body parts from aborted babies.

Other undercover investigations by pro-life organizations in the last several years have shown Planned Parenthood employees allegedly demonstrating a willingness to aid self-professed sex traffickers whose prostitutes supposedly were in their early teens, seeking to conceal alleged child sex abuse and agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African-American babies.

Planned Parenthood, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, came into existence when eugenicist Margaret Sanger opened a Brooklyn birth control clinic in 1916. It took the lead in the abortion business in this country when a New York affiliate began performing the procedures in 1970. New York legalized abortion that year, three years before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on the procedure.

Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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