The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission unveiled just prior to the second Evangelicals for Life conference a groundbreaking initiative in the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.
The ERLC announced Jan. 24 an online advertising campaign to rally support for the congressional drive to cut federal dollars for the country’s No. 1 abortion provider. The effort is the first of its kind by the ERLC and includes a digital petition that makes it possible for the commission to deliver the list of signers to congressional leaders.
The announcement came as final preparations were in process for Evangelicals for Life, a three-day meeting in Washington, D.C., co-hosted by the ERLC and Focus on the Family. The Jan. 26-28 conference is wrapped around the annual March for Life, the Jan. 27 event attended by tens of thousands of pro-life Americans.
Support for defunding Planned Parenthood has grown in recent years amid a string of scandals that have plagued the organization. The latest was unveiled in 2015, when a series of undercover videos appeared to provide evidence Planned Parenthood was trading in body parts from aborted babies. The secretly recorded videos allegedly showed executives discussing their sale of fetal parts, as well as their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve organs for sale and use.
Advocates for defunding Planned Parenthood have an advantage they did not have last year. Unlike President Obama, new President Donald Trump has promised to end federal funds for the abortion rights organization.
In the last congressional session, both the Senate and House of Representatives 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. Obama vetoed the measure, however.
This year, supporters of defunding Planned Parenthood are using what is known as the reconciliation process – as they did in the last session – to pass a budget bill. The House should easily pass the measure, and reconciliation will enable the Senate to pass a budget-related measure by a simple majority and without the need for 60 votes to overcome a filibuster attempt.
ERLC President Russell Moore said in a written release announcing the online initiative, “For years, many of us have called on government leaders to see to it that no taxpayer funds, of any kind, go to Planned Parenthood.
“The last two years alone have amply demonstrated that the organization is engaged in some of the most ghoulish forms of for-profit human trafficking in our culture,” he said. “No cent of public funding should support that.”
Moore urged the president and Congress to act quickly so “taxpayer money can support institutions that promote and care for life, instead of exploiting it.”
Defunding Planned Parenthood is one of the priorities in the ERLC’s 2017 legislative agenda.
The letter the ERLC intends to deliver to congressional leaders on behalf of the signers says:
“Planned Parenthood uses my tax dollars to fund and grow the abortion business, not provide women’s health services. This violates my conscience. Therefore, I ask you to support the budget resolution that defunds Planned Parenthood and redirects funding to federally qualified health centers.”
The petition is available for signing at erlc.com/initiatives/defund-planned-parenthood.
In addition to the online mobilization effort, the ERLC said it plans to offer pro-life resources to churches; provide relevant, pro-life content; and continue to visit congressional offices to promote the protection of life.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements in the organization’s latest financial year, 2014-15. Planned Parenthood’s affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent reporting year for which statistics are available.
On Jan. 24, Live Action – a pro-life organization – released the first in a new series of investigative videos it says refutes Planned Parenthood’s claim it provides prenatal care as a primary service. Live Action reported its special investigators requesting prenatal care were turned away by 92 of the 97 Planned Parenthood centers they contacted.
In a final report issued Jan. 3, a special House investigative panel recommended Congress eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood and certify such federal funds go to comprehensive health-care providers that do not perform abortions.
Evangelicals for Life will open the afternoon of Jan. 26 with an address by Moore on human dignity and the gospel. More than 50 speakers will address not only abortion but such issues as adoption, end-of-life care, ministry to those with special needs, human trafficking, service to immigrants and refugees and the development of a pro-life worldview.
Among the speakers will be R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Jackie Hill Perry, a poet and artist with Humble Beast Records; Eugene Cho, lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle; and Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)