Faith groups are speaking out about their support for Planned Parenthood, offering a prayerful defense of the national women’s health organization after a series of misleading videos sparked a movement to end its federal funding.
In early August, members of the U.S. Congress began calling for the federal government to stop giving financial support to Planned Parenthood. The movement was spurred largely by right-wing religious and political leaders outraged over a series of highly edited — and possibly illegal — videos accusing one of the country’s largest family planning providers of profiting off of the sale of fetal tissue.
But as the U.S. Senate readied to vote on the issue, a group of more than 50 faith-based organizations signed on to a letter urging the Senate to end the push to defund Planned Parenthood, proclaiming “a world without Planned Parenthood would be disastrous for many women and their families.”
“Our organizations share a faith-centered commitment to the most marginalized and the most vulnerable of our society, including those with limited financial means or those who live in areas with limited access to healthcare and related services,” the letter reads. “For many, Planned Parenthood is their only source of medical care. Many Planned Parenthood patients are struggling to make ends meet. In times of economic hardship, the need for Planned Parenthood is greater than ever.”
As Patricia Miller points out over at Religion Dispatches, the signatories represent a small portion of the surprising number of pro-choice people of faith, an oft-overlooked group that has existed for decades. Several of the organizations listed — such as the Unitarian Universalist Association, Catholics for Choice, Jewish Women International, and DignityUSA — have spent years championing women’s health. Many also recently met with the White House to advocate for providing abortion services to women who endure rape in war-torn areas — including victims of ISIS’s horrific sex slave trade.
Rev. Harry Knox, the head of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and one of the signers of the letter, expressed a similar sentiment in an interview with ThinkProgress. He blasted both the intent and tactics of the Center for Medical Progress, the group responsible for making the inflammatory videos geared towards defaming Planned Parenthood.
“As a Christian, I believe that God trusts and empowers each of us to make the decisions that are best for ourselves and our families,” Knox wrote in an email. “In a just and righteous society, women and families are fully empowered with the tools and resources needed to decide whether, when, and under what circumstances to have children and to raise their children in healthy environments. These sustained attacks on health care are no way to build the beloved community that God desires for us.”
“The attacks on Planned Parenthood and other abortion care providers are part of a long-term pattern of attacks on women’s personal decision-making,” he added.
Rev. Debra Haffner, another signer of the letter head of the Religious Institute, voiced an impassioned faith-based endorsement of Planned Parenthood in a recent op-ed for the Huffington Post, pointing out that at least fifteen religious denominations have passed formal resolutions supporting access to legal and safe abortion. She also started an online petition in early August for faith-based supporters of the national women’s health organization that has already accrued over 3,500 signatures, arguing “as people of faith, our voices can sound a clarion call for justice, women’s moral autonomy, and nationwide access to reproductive health services.”
“Playing politics with women’s health is morally reprehensible,” Marie Alford-Harkey, Deputy Director of the Religious Institute, told ThinkProgress. “My faith teaches me that every human being has dignity, worth, and moral agency, and therefore should be able to make their own reproductive decisions. My faith also teaches me that we have a responsibility to work for the common good, and that is exactly what Planned Parenthood does by providing lifesaving healthcare to women who could not otherwise afford it.”