Time to take a stand again on funding of Planned Parenthood

The funding of Planned Parenthood, now in the national debate thanks to secretly recorded videos that appear to show the organization’s involvement in procuring and selling human body parts from aborted fetuses, was big news in the Diocese of Peoria 36 years ago.

In July of 1979, Bishop Edward W. O’Rourke made headlines by withdrawing diocesan endorsement for United Way of Champaign County, in part because its appeal helped fund the salary of the region’s executive director of Planned Parenthood.

“The executive director is ultimately responsible for the execution of all programs of Planned Parenthood, including abortion counseling,” Bishop O’Rourke said in his announcement. “Therefore funding her salary directly involves us in this pro-abortion activity.” His concern extended to Planned Parenthood’s promotion of artificial contraception, including some abortifacients.

United Way campaigns elsewhere in central Illinois, which had resolved similar funding issues, were not affected by the diocese’s action.

The story, however, would bubble throughout the rest of that year. Because the bishop’s bold move also included withdrawing Catholic Social Service of Champaign from United Way support, a “Share Life” campaign was organized to make up for thousands of dollars in lost funding. In promoting the November campaign to Catholics in Champaign, Piatt, and Vermilion counties, Bishop O’Rourke quoted the words of an energetic new pope who had just visited the U.S.

“When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up to proclaim that no one has the authority to destroy human life,” said that pope, now St. John Paul II.

To their credit, the Catholics of the Champaign region responded in a big way,
topping the drive’s $40,000 goal by $15,000.

So here we are, 36 years later, confronted with the videos being released by a group known as the Center for Medical Progress. We’ve seen and heard one Planned Parenthood doctor casually speak of her skill at preserving the hearts, lungs, and livers of unborn children by crushing body parts above and below those valuable organs. Another medical director jokes about getting the best price for fetal remains because “I want a Lamborghini.”

And we are told there are more revealing videos to come.

Whatever deflections and defenses Planned Parenthood and its supporters offer (the tape is “heavily edited,” no illegal activity has been proven, abortions are only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s business, those doing the filming are “anti-abortion extremists,” etc.), there can be no argument that the sacredness of life before birth has been, and continues to be, attacked by branches of that organization.

So, are we standing up? Maybe a more practical question is, how can we stand up?

First, by kneeling. Pray regularly for greater respect for human life in all stages and its protection in our laws. Pray for the conversion of Planned Parenthood employees and other abortion providers who, like the doctors in the videos, have seemingly lost their moral compass. Pray for women facing difficult choices today, or those who made difficult decisions in the past and are troubled by this new debate. And pray for our own conversion, wisdom and strength as we confront with love and determination what we recognize and name as evil.

Second, with practical action. Let’s write or call our representatives, encouraging investigations into Planned Parenthood’s practices. Ask them to consider eliminating the $500 million in taxpayer funding the organization annually receives. While Planned Parenthood supporters argue those funds don’t go to abortion services, let our representatives know that the organization’s track record in that ghastly area of “business” makes it an entity we want no part in supporting.

Finally, as Bishop O’Rourke suggested in the summer of 1979 and Bishop Daniel R. Jenky continues to emphasize, consider how we can better support pro-life efforts in our region. A financial donation? A few hours of volunteering? A leadership role?

“This great outpouring of dollars, time, and encouragement assures us of the convictions of our people regarding the sacredness of life, and the need for our programs which serve all whose life, well-being and dignity are threatened,” said Bishop O’Rourke after the successful 1979 drive.

Let nothing less be said of our response to the challenges in the summer of 2015. — Thomas J. Dermody

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