The Obama administration has agreed to “review all the information” surrounding two videos that show Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of baby parts obtained through abortion. The administration also said it will not agree to defund America’s largest abortion provider.
On the 2016 presidential campaign trail, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton defended Planned Parenthood as providing “essential services for women.”
Meanwhile, two Southern Baptists – a Colorado pastor and a Texas seminary administrator – have offered theological perspectives criticizing Planned Parenthood.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said of the controversy July 22, “I’m aware of those matters generally from the media, and from some inquiries that have been made to the Department of Justice, and again at this point we’re going to review all the information and determine what steps, if any, to take at the appropriate time,” The Hill reported.
The promise to investigate came after Senate Republicans sent a letter to Lynch requesting an investigation of Planned Parenthood. House Democrats also sent a letter requesting an investigation of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the group which filmed and released the videos.
An NPR report said Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Zoe Lofgren, Jerry Nadler and Yvette Clarke wrote to Lynch requesting an investigation of CMP and calling the group’s investigation of Planned Parenthood an “elaborate scheme” using “fake identification” that did not obtain appropriate approval from the personnel who appear on video.
In a separate letter, 48 senate Republicans and one Democrat – Joe Manchin of West Virginia – asked Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to investigate Planned Parenthood.
Some observers have suggested Lynch’s investigation could focus on CMP more than Planned Parenthood. Politico reported July 23 that Lynch will “look into whether the group that released the sting videos obtained the footage legally.” The Federalist similarly reported, “The U.S. Department of Justice announced plans to investigate the group that produced undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood employees admitting that they harvest and sell organs ripped from the bodies of aborted babies.”
The Department of Justice did not respond before Baptist Press’ (BP) publication deadline to a request to clarify the focus of the investigation.
CMP also did not respond to BP’s request for comment before its publication deadline but released a statement July 22.
“Planned Parenthood [is] trying to use the power of their political cronies to shut down free speech, to silence the freedom of the press, to persecute [senior investigator] David Daleiden, and to save their half-a-billion in taxpayer money and avoid accountability to the law and the American people,” said the CMP statement, which appeared to be written by Daleiden.
“Planned Parenthood and their political allies know our investigation has revealed the truth about the gruesome and horrific practices of partial-birth abortions and selling baby parts taking place throughout their organization,” the statement said. “They will attack me and my organization all day long, but that does not change the facts about what our investigation has uncovered and what the American people now know – that Planned Parenthood is engaged in an enterprise-wide operation that traffics and sells baby body parts.”
A reporter asked White House spokesman Josh Earnest July 20 whether the administration would reconsider its stance that federal funding should not be withdrawn from Planned Parenthood. Earnest responded, “No,” and turned away from the reporter, according to a video of the exchange posted online.
Earnest said July 17 he had not viewed the first CMP video or spoken with President Obama about it. Earnest said he “did read news reports,” adding, “Planned Parenthood said they follow the highest ethical guidelines,” LifeSiteNews reported.
Clinton defended Planned Parenthood during a campaign stop July 23 in South Carolina.
“I don’t have all the facts but Planned Parenthood has apologized for the insensitivity of the employee who was taped and they will continue to answer questions for Congress and others, but for more than a century Planned Parenthood has provided essential services for women,” Clinton said according to LifeSiteNews. “Not just reproductive health services, including access to affordable family planning, but cancer screenings, for example, and other health checkups.”
Clinton continued, “I think it is unfortunate that Planned Parenthood has been the object of such a concerted attack for so many years and it’s really an attack against women’s rights to choose, to make the most personal, difficult decisions that any woman would face based on her faith and her medical advice that she is given. So I am hoping that this situation will not further undermine the very important services that Planned Parenthood provides.”
Boyce College professor Denny Burk responded to Clinton’s comments in a blog post, “Secretary Clinton defends an organization that routinely kills babies in utero, harvests their body parts, and sells them to buyers. The only moral outrage she musters is against the people who produced the video. This is the indifference toward innocent human life that must end. Any politician who cannot summon the resolve to oppose the barbarism of Planned Parenthood is not morally serious.”
At least eight states have launched investigations of Planned Parenthood along with two U.S. House committees.
In related news, two Baptist commentators have drawn parallels between Planned Parenthood’s actions and events recounted in the Old Testament. Calvin Wittman, pastor of Applewood Baptist Church in the Denver area, contrasted the lack of moral outrage in America with the Israelites’ reaction in Judges 19 when a woman was cut into 12 pieces.
“It is a sad day when this kind of evil does not get people up in arms,” Wittman told BP in written comments. “In Judges 19 a woman was cut up and her body parts were sent throughout all of Israel. But even Israel, during the time of the judges, when every man did what was right in their own eyes, was incensed and punished the persons responsible. Can it be that America is worse off morally than Israel was during the time of the Judges?
“All Americans should be disgusted and incensed by the revelation of this evil,” Wittman wrote of Planned Parenthood’s organ trafficking.
“Christians should not only be outraged, we should also be brokenhearted that our country has become so desensitized to evil,” he noted. “Clearly we can see what more than 40 years of ‘abortion rights’ have done to the moral fiber of our country: they have robbed us of the understanding that life is precious.”
The sale of body parts from aborted babies, Wittman said, “is the direct result of a naturalistic worldview that has intentionally absented God from the scene. This is what happens when you teach a generation that humans are just another animal; that human life is no more valuable than that of a dog or a cat. We can never truly know who we are [until] we know who God is. Only in light of who He is can we see ourselves, not only as sinners, but as those endowed with sacred life, as those who are created in His image.”
Wittman called for prayer for America and an aggressive gospel witness “amidst the moral decay.”
Charles Patrick, vice president for strategic initiatives at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the abortion industry “a modern day Molech,” referencing an ancient Ammonite deity who required child sacrifice.
In biblical times, “a couple sacrificed their firstborn by burning the child on a metal idol of Molech, believing that Molech would ensure financial prosperity for the family and future children,” Patrick, a former research scientist in the field of tissue engineering, wrote in an online commentary. “The Israelites were strictly forbidden to practice this form of worship (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; 2 Kings 23:10; and Jeremiah 32:35) as it is in stark contradiction to the sanctity of life espoused throughout the Bible. Today’s Molech is the abortion industry, sacrificing babies for the idol of financial greed, veiled in the hopes of the development of new cures through biomedical research.”
Reacting to the first video released by CMP, Patrick said most biomedical research is “ethically sound.” But research associated with harvesting parts from aborted babies “is ethically, morally, and biblically wrong.”
Watching a Planned Parenthood doctor “casually eating her meal while she describes the grotesque manner in which organs and body parts are harvested illustrates the supply and demand economics of the [abortion] business” and “how Planned Parenthood knowingly is skirting if not breaking the law.”
Patrick continued, “The modern day Molech should be well pleased – in addition to the untold millions received in selling aborted baby organs and body parts, Planned Parenthood receives over $500 million from U.S. taxpayers from government grants and reimbursements.”
The church must “destroy the idols” and “take down the high places,” Patrick wrote, through prayer, appropriate legal action and upholding the sanctity of life.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)