Catholics and Planned Parenthood

The Republican-controlled Congress recently cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood and the vote has been projected as a great victory … Continued

The Republican-controlled Congress recently cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood and the vote has been projected as a great victory for Catholic opposition to abortion. However, the premise behind this proposed legislation threatens to send Catholicism back to the days of the Know Nothings in the 1840s.

At issue is whether a corporation like Planned Parenthood can receive government funding for some services and still spend privately raised money on others. Until now, the answer to that question has been, “Yes!” Just like food stamps are used to pay for milk while cigarettes must be paid for with a person’s own cash, common sense has generally recognized that accepting government subsidies or grants does not strip a person or an agency of the freedom of how to spend their own money. The money is in two different piles. This Republican vote, however, stripped Planned Parenthood of federal funding for mammograms, pre-natal care, nutrition programs, etc. because they use private money when spending 3% of their budget on abortions. The agency was denied the right to put money any longer into two separate piles.

How do we know that today’s law that gives government the power to take away an agency’s freedom to spend its own money will never be used against the Catholic Church? Some 67% of Catholic Charities funding comes from government sources. But Catholic teaching also supports efforts to serve immigrants, even if they have no longer have documents to work or reside here. Similarly, the Catholic bishops advocate a path to citizenship for the undocumented. What is to prevent the Republican foes of immigration reform from cutting off all funding for Catholic Charities by using the same logic that attacked Planned Parenthood? After all, the nature of law is that it applies to everyone. To argue that the Catholic Church will be treated differently under the law than Planned Parenthood is to suggest that religion is established in the United States – which is clearly unconstitutional.

I also reject the idea that Republican lawmakers could never pass legislation that repudiated Catholic teaching. In my district, the congressman is Lou Barletta, former mayor of Hazelton, PA and an implacable foe of Catholic social justice for Latino immigrants. At an October 2007 forum sponsored by the University of Notre Dame, Barletta demeaned not only the Church’s social justice but also disparaged Cardinal Mahoney. Barletta boasted to me before a later public debate I had with him that he “set the Cardinal straight.” Not exactly the obedience to the Ordinary Magisterium you expect from the pious laity!

I recognize that my direct experience with Barletta is my own. However, I think most Catholics believe that the current cooperation between government and church-related agencies is working just fine. The church can decide that it does not want to abide by government restrictions on how public funds are spent, as for instance when the church refuses to place foster children in homes where the parents were of the same sex. But that decision came from the Church’s side. Government should not be allowed to dictate to Catholics what they may or may not do with free will donations. Big Brother government is bad for democracy.

The still larger question is whether cutting off funds to social services can be pro-life. The United States has the highest infant morality rate in the developed world, largely because of the death of pre-maturely born infants. That rate was lowered for the first time in 30 years in 2010 by Obama Administration programs for education and nutrition of pregnant women in line with the intention to provide alternatives to abortion. There is no indication from Republicans that they will restore to other agencies the funds they have cut off. Scarcely a pro-life approach!

Today, the cuts are supposed to be on account of opposition to abortion; tomorrow they might be on account of opposition to immigration reform. The Republican Congress has made acceptance of any federal funds an excuse to take away the freedom to spend private money on issues that politicians do not like. The restoration of anti-Catholic Know-Nothingism is a threat we cannot ignore.

About

Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo is Professor Emeritus of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College and Distinguished Scholar of the City University of New York.
  • fregameeate

    How about Catholic support for “Sharia Law?”Never, never, bargain with the Devil. Have you forgotten, “..Lie down with dogs; get up with fleas.”

  • Apoorsinner

    So, by this logic we have to fund everything??? That’s why we have representatives, so that they can hash this stuff out and take the praise or blame in the next election. I’m glad they voted to strip Planned Parenthood of their tax-payer funds. The most dangerous place for an unborn child is in a PP clinic. They don’t need my tax dollars to make a profit, and they make a good one, off of abortions. Why does this guy get to represent “Catholic America” He seems to be against church teaching on almost all issues.

  • delusional1

    The Feds put strings on all the money they dole out to the states and any organization. Set your speed limit to 565 or we’ll take away your transportation funds. etc. etc. This is nothing new. Now we have Republicans in charge and they don’t like the abortion mill business that Federal funds enable PP to run. Quit whining because you just don’t like what the Republicans choose to do.

  • papafritz571

    The more the unGodly churches try to do to us women, the more we will stay away from them. Planned Parenthood gets a tiny amount of money from the federal government for abortions and everyone knows that. But the hate-filled men who want control over our lives continue to lie. They take no responsibility for their dirty actions getting women pregnant and the unGodly churches have failed to do anything to them.

  • hurleyvision

    The Roman Catholics have a program that works. Population is being controlled by ignorance, disease and starvation. If a raped 10 year old girl is dying, let her die. That way she can’t testify against her rapist. If a female of any age will die if the pregnancy continues, the Catholics know that this will reduce population.

  • destinysmom

    If it is no longer okay to “put money any longer into two separate piles”, then Catholic schools in those states which provide for books/bus transportation/surplus commodities or subsidies for milk, etc. can make the same argument about the funds not being involved in teaching religion. It cuts both ways.

  • stevie7

    @Yeal9 – I noticed that you didn’t post any references for your contraceptive effectiveness list. I notice that you also left out injectibles, which typically have a failure rate of about 1%. Here’s data from the university of Arizona with some drastically different numbers:I also see lots of misinformation out there today – PP does not receive any federal funds for abortion. Abortions only comprise 3% of their total services, so I fail to see how its generating huge profits. Not to mention that its a 501 (c)(3)

  • adrienne_najjar

    The church needs to get out of people’s private lives. Religion does more harm than good.

  • Carstonio

    “What is to prevent the Republican foes of immigration reform from cutting off all funding for Catholic Charities by using the same logic that attacked Planned Parenthood?”Excellent point. The vote to cut Planned Parenthood funding was really a victory for fundamentalist opposition to abortion, not Catholic opposition. For both feminists and fundamentalists, the abortion debate is largely a proxy for a debate about the role of women in society, with the latter defending what amounts to male privilege. (The debate should really be about whether abortion should be legal or illegal, not about whether it’s wrong, because the latter question is outside the realm of government.) In contrast to the fundamentalist position on abortion, the Catholic position has a theological basis, and I can respect its internal logic even while disagreeing with the theology. More to the point, that theology doesn’t fit into the fundamentalist framing of the abortion issue, since fundamentalism is a type of absolutism. I’ve heard anecdotes about fundamentalists upbraiding Catholics for being insufficiently militant on abortion and even for being insufficiently Catholic on the issue.

  • usapdx

    Who pays the bills? How many people can earth feed? Why do groups that pay no tax want to speak out on political issues? Cannot people think and make their own choice? Why are these that speak at the pulpit never questioned? Think.

  • Christian1941

    The one thing I never hear about is why Margaret Sanger created Planned Parenthood; it was to eliminate blacks, which she thought were inferior. Since black women have aborted so many of their babies, it seems that Sanger got what she wanted.

  • adavidson

    This column is why I read the Post; nuanced, smart, compassionate and I learned something new. Many thanks!

  • poodlemom

    I have been a non practicing Catholic for 40yrs and believe in birth control. I was never so digusted with the Catholic Church then I was after the earthquake in Haiti and learned that 85% of the population in this terribly poor country were Catholics and that before the earthquake there were over 250,000 orphans there and more today. If there ever was need for birth control in a country it is in Haiti yet the CC has such control that this country and their people will never ever have a chance without controlling their population and for a church not to see that and still leaving it up to “God’s will” to me is sinning. I guess to the Catholic Church it is more important to have starving children on the street than to say it’s okay to use birth control. I’m sorry that is just evil.

  • dragondancer1814

    Papafritz571, I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • greenneck

    Quoting from another article; “abstinence makes the church grow fondlers”.

  • melissayorks

    Re: Margaret Sanger. Silly me, I always thought that she wanted birth control for women because “Her mother had 18 pregnancies, bore 11 children, and died in 1899 at the age of 40. Working as a nurse with immigrant families on New York’s Lower East Side, Sanger witnesses the sickness, misery, and death that result from unwanted pregnancy and illegal abortion.” At the time there weren’t even that many blacks in NYC- she was helping immigrant and poor women, not trying to kill off blacks.

  • chatard

    You’re not a Catholic, Arroyo. You’re a left-wing Democrat operative.

  • davivman

    chatard says, “You’re not a Catholic, Arroyo. You’re a left-wing Democrat operative”.Assuming that Mr. Arroyo were a left-wing democrat operative, whatever that is, how is that an alternative to being catholic? It’s like saying, “you’re not a state citizen. You’re a teacher.” One thing has nothing to do with the other.

  • mascmen7

    Arroyo is not a Catholic as he knows all tax money given to Planned Parenthood for mammograms can be used to fund abortions. Arroyo is hired as a Catholic by a Jewish owned newspaper to fool Catholics into adopting the Liberal Jewish agenda of free love, abortion, divorce, contraception etc.

  • cthehill

    It’s so cute when the Catholic Church pretends like it has some moral authority!

  • FelicityHangnail

    So who in their right mind admits to being a Roman Cahtolic these days? The protection of Catholic child molesters from law enforcement investigation and prosecution by RCC heirarchy leaves this institution completely morally bankrupt.

  • haveaheart

    “At issue is whether a corporation like Planned Parenthood can receive government funding for some services and still spend privately raised money on others.”The real issue is why, in a democratic society, private citizens should have any say — beyond the statement they can make in the voting booth — in the funding of non-profit organizations that are performing legal activities in a legal manner.If I can’t choose to withhold my tax dollars from the funding of wars I think are immoral or religious groups I think are immoral, then Catholics, evangelicals, and all of the other anti-abortion factions should not be able to choose to withhold their tax dollars from organizations that are performing activities they think are immoral.Why do these people’s consciences matter more than mine? We see morality in different ways, but the government shouldn’t be making choices about which citizen concerns merit action and which don’t.When an activity is officially deemed legal in this country, no citizens should be able to withhold their tax dollars from funding it.

  • flaxseedsrgood

    I am surprised that most of the readers including the author of this article does not know the history of Planned Parenthood and the Nazi roots!

  • lufrank1

    I am speaking as an 82 year-old Professor emeritus (University of Houston) who devoted 30 years research/teaching (FSU, Univ. Miami, Woods Hole MBL, Tulane’s Delta Regional Primate Center, and UH). I served on NICHD and Population Research Site Visit Committees, and as an ad hoc member of NICHD Study Section. I was a participant in National and International Meetings and Symposia on Reproduction, Fertilization (+ 3 Gordon Conferences), Spermatogenesis and Sperm Motility. About 9 years of my research was funded by grants from the NICHD and the Center for Population Research. My 63 scientific publications were subjected to peer review, and I also reviewed several articles (and a few books) submitted by my peers to various journals.

  • davivman

    mascmen7, that sounds like a freshly brewed pot of crazy you just cooked up. Arroyo is opposed to abortion, and regardless of what you say, is a Catholic. This may be news to you too, but President Obama actually was born in this country.

  • jlp858

    I’m trying to understand this article — if Congress cuts funding to one group for one reason, that’s the same thing as cutting funding to another group for a totally separate reason, therefore everything has to be funded, or a religion has been established? It would be fine with me if neither PP or CC received any of my tax money, but the principle of equal protection of the laws does not mean that Congress has to give the same amount of money to every group that sticks its hand out.

  • Ken16

    “How do we know that today’s law that gives government the power to take away an agency’s freedom to spend its own money will never be used against the Catholic Church? “Money is fungible. If Planned Parenthood uses tax-funded grants to pay for postage stamps and web sites, that is money they don’t need to allocate from other sources that is now free to pay for abortions. There is no way that this law can be construed to say what Arroyo mendaciosuly claims. The law dows not tell Planned Parenthood how to spend its private money. It says rather, that if Planned Parenthood is going to continue to spend money on abortions, it will have only its private money to spend as freely as it wants.It must be mentioned for the obtuse among us, that the US Government is under no obligation to give any organization not part of the government any money at all.The US does have a high infant mortality rate. Few other developed countries count miscarriages, babies under certain weights etc toward their infant mortality rates. America’s prenatal and neonatal technology allow more premies to survive than in other countries, who don’t factor their preterm infant deaths into their mortality rates. Figures lie and liars figure.

  • persiflage

    The Catholic Church and it’s Vatican-sponsored anti-birth control policies is a monumental threat to poor and third world countries in particular, but is by no means restricted to less affluent nations. Mother Teresa carried the Church’s anti-abortion, anti-birth control crusade to the incredible squalor of Calcutta, where population control was and is of paramount importance. For this, she will no doubt be sainted. Unfortunately, Margaret Sanger has not been similarly nominated for her work in this country. Undermining Planned Parenthood through the auspices of republican lackies in congress who are inadvertantly kowtowing to Rome, must be quite thrilling moment. Indeed, the long arm of Vatican City has significant political impact right here in the USA, with their blatant attempts to control a woman’s independent decision-making with regard to reproductive rights, via the elimination of pro-choice laws that have been in effect since 1973.It’s not only the fundamentalist Muslims that are seeking to control the world – they have a worthy and ancient competitor much closer at hand. Catholic does mean universal, after all…..

  • wmpowellfan

    My question: why do Catholic charities support illegal aliens? Isn’t that encouraging and enabling law-breakers? Why not let the church raise its own money to help — we’ll say Mexicans, because the majority of illegals are Mexican — in Mexico. If the church teaches compassion and encourages sin, it has failed. And illegal immigration is sin — stealing and robbing, in stealth. That’s why illegals sneak in, that’s why illegals steal identities, that’s why illegals defraud welfare services. They hide because they know they are wrong. And for the church to encourage this disregard of federal and state laws is wrong. Take YOUR money to MEXICO and teach the Mexicans how to make their nation, and their quality of life, better. Don’t be a hypocrite and talk religion out of one side of your mouth, and O, poor “immigrants” out of the other — and wreck our country in the process.

  • usapdx

    Congress must repeal the TAX EXAMPT law so these groups speaking out on political matters that claim TAX EXAMPT can truly have their full freedom of speech and PAY TAXES like the rest of America.

  • Aldol

    PP needs to go the way of ACORN it seems that it has allowed some of its locations to be cesspools of corruption and criminal activities. Just like ACORN. When an organization gets to this point,in general, can no longer be fixed.

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