Last week, I told readers of the Catholic World Report that we’ve arrived at the pro-life moment. I claimed that “the pro-life movement is on the cusp of the fierce urgency of now. Now is the time to launch a full-scale investigation of Planned Parenthood. Now is the time to defund an organization that already receives over one billion dollars in corporate donations and federal tax dollars every year. Now is the time to demand a ban on late-term abortions.” If I’m right, then we’d better not squander this moment.
To make sure we don’t, here are the final three things we can do right now for the cause of life.
3. We can write our elected officials in Congress to demand the immediate defunding of Planned Parenthood.
One reason it is so important to probe Planned Parenthood is that it receives large sums of federal tax dollars every year. For the last four and a half decades, it has received federal funding under the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act, which Republican President Richard Nixon signed into law on December 26, 1970. Congressional appropriations, Medicaid reimbursements, and other federal monies in the forms of government grants and contracts have all been disbursed to Planned Parenthood under the provisions of the Title X National Family Planning Program. Federal appropriations account for one-third of the organization’s annual operating budget. In 2013 alone, Planned Parenthood received some $540.6 million in federal government grants. And, during the last decade, the group received over four billion dollars in federal and state aid.
Over the decades, legislators have proposed adjustments in aid to Planned Parenthood. In both February and April of 2011, Republican politicians called for considerable reductions in awards to America’s leading provider of abortions. And since 2013, US Representative Diane Black (R-TN-06) has sponsored the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (H.R. 217), “which would stop Title X federal grants from going to abortion providers,” according to an official press release. But, since the Center for Medical Progress exposed Planned Parenthood’s participation in the sale of fetal remains, Republicans on Capitol Hill have been calling for an immediate moratorium on all federal funding to the nation’s biggest abortion provider during the course of an investigation.
With four decades of experience as a nurse, US Representative Diane Black (R-TN-06) is leading that campaign. On July 21, she introduced the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015 (H.R. 3134) into the US House of Representatives. If her bill is passed, it would suspend federal funding “for the span of one year while Congress conducts a full investigation into the organization’s activities,” according to an official press release from her office. However, the Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH-08) has not committed to supporting that bill.
We need to get behind Representative Black’s legislative initiatives. And, we shouldn’t wait to do that. There is no reason tax dollars need to be funneled to America’s largest abortion provider. As US Senator Rand Paul remarked on Fox News’ Sean Hannity show on July 22, everything Planned Parenthood does – except abortions – is already being done by community health centers. Let’s be clear: We can – and we will – take federal money away from Margaret Sanger’s organization and send it to more deserving health organizations that neither perform abortions nor sell the remains of unborn babies.
There are three things we can do right now toward that end. First, we can join groups like Catholic Vote in becoming citizen co-sponsors of the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act. And, we can call upon our congressional leaders to support Representative Black’s important bill to Defund Planned Parenthood. Second, we can put pressure on Speaker Boehner to get on board both of these bills. And, thirdly, we can encourage our US Senators to follow the example of Representative Black and to heed the words of Rand Paul and find workable solutions to defunding Planned Parenthood.
4. We can support sensible state and federal legislation to ban all late-term abortions.
Shortly after the Center for Medical Progress released its first two videos, Wisconsin Governor and Republican presidential hopeful, Scott Walker, signed into law a ban on non-emergency late-term abortions. The legislation attracted the vitriol of anti-life groups like Planned Parenthood. One statement released to the press called Walker “the most dangerous governor for women’s health.” And, radical pro-choice politicians, like Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called Walker’s ban “dangerous,” “extreme,” and “unacceptable.”
Something in our shared political culture has gone deeply awry when an anti-life politician, supporting an organization’s sale of aborted baby parts, calls a governor, banning late-term abortions of viable fetuses, “dangerous” and “extreme.” But, I digress.
Writing for Life Site, Ben Johnson explains that Walker’s “measure would disallow abortions after 20 weeks except to save the mother’s life or if she would suffer major, irreparable physical harm within the next 24 hours.” Governor Walker went on record saying that twenty weeks marks a “reasonable standard” because “At five months, … [the] unborn child can feel pain.” Wisconsin’s forty-fifth governor further contends that, “For people, regardless of where they might stand, when an unborn child can feel pain, I think most people feel it’s appropriate to protect that child.”
Governor Walker signed his ban into law just months after the US House of Representatives voted 242-184 to approve a similar bill, according to LifeNews.com.
The congressional Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36) will go before the US Senate after legislators return from their summer recess in August, according to the Washington Examiner.
Currently, late-term abortions account for fewer than two percent of all abortions performed in Australia, Canada, England and Wales, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, and Sweden. While several nations have outlawed the practice altogether, only the United States, Canada, China, and North Korea permit abortions at all points of a pregnancy without any restrictions. An advanced Western nation like the United States should not be keeping company with countries like China and North Korea by permitting late-term abortions on babies capable of feeling pain. We can – and we must – do better.
Therefore, we should take the time to thank those representatives who voted in support of the ban on late-term abortions. And, we need to encourage our senators who will soon vote on the bill to stand up for life. Those of us living in states without bans on late-term abortions should ask our elected leaders – including assemblymen, state senators, and governors – to initiate legislation in defense of the unborn.
5. We can – and we must – pray to end abortion.
Since the United States Supreme Court decided Roe vs Wade on January 22, 1973, abortion has claimed the lives of untold numbers of children. There can be no mistake about it. Abortion is a horror that has ravaged our nation because, as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta remarked at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast, “A nation that permits abortion, does not teach its people to love; but, to use whatever violence necessary to get what it wants.”
Perhaps the most important thing we can do is to pray to end abortion. As Catholics, our prayer will take many and multiple forms, including fasting and mortification, private and communal prayers, and especially the corporal works of mercy of ransoming the captive unborn and burying the pre-born dead.
But, at times, our prayer may take the form of making financial contributions to pro-life health care centers. At other times, some might discern God’s invitation to make an even greater contribution with a life of joyful giving to those at the margins of society.
So, let us pray especially for those young women and men who may be in the midst of discerning a calling to enter a religious community like St. Jeanne Jugan’s Little Sisters of the Poor, Blessed Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, or Cardinal O’Connor’s Sisters for Life. Those communities offer an invaluable witness to the dignity and inestimable value of each and every human life.
And, if you are one of those people discerning a call to religious life in service to the most marginalized and the most vulnerable members of our society, may you do one thing more.
May you say ‘yes.’