HOUSTON --- A diverse group of pastors gathered on the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision to condemn renovation of a six-story Houston building into what they described as "the largest abortion clinic in the world."
Sonny Foraker, spokesman for the Greater Houston Area Pastor Council, told the group of supporters and journalists, "We are standing here because [abortion] is a moral evil that destroys human life. We stand together as pastors to say this is not something we want in our community."
The building, formerly the Sterling Bank at 4600 Gulf Freeway, loomed behind the pastors as they took turns speaking out against the new Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas clinic.
"This building is an invitation that gives everyone the message that it is OK to take life away," said pastor Hernan Castano (Hernan is correct spelling) of Iglesia Rios de Aceite in Houston. "This cannot be the answer to the world. We must respect life."
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Melvin Johnson, pastor of Heart of Christ Community Church in Brazoria, Texas, called the Planned Parenthood facility an "abomination" and talked about the racist ideas of the organization's founder, Margaret Sanger.
Johnson, who is black, held up pictures of Sanger participating in a Ku Klux Klan rally in the early 20th century. He pointed out that African American women undergo a disproportionately higher number of abortions compared to the general population of women.
"As Jesus died on the cross, He proclaimed life," declared Carlos Martins, a Roman Catholic. "Any Christian should see the evil of this."
Martins quoted Mother Teresa's famous chastisement of America when she spoke at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, calling abortion "the greatest destroyer of peace in the world."
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Martins made it clear that the community of faith is not angry toward the women who seek and follow through with abortions but with organizations like Planned Parenthood that promote and conduct them. "There is a caring community that is willing to stand with and next to pregnant women. You do not go through this alone," he said.
Noting that the Planned Parenthood site is just a few blocks from the University of Houston and historically African American Texas Southern University, pastor James Clark of Park Place Baptist Church charged Planned Parenthood with targeting college students.
Foraker concurred: "This building is not by chance located here. I assure you, they are targeting our young people, African Americans and Hispanics," he said.
Christine Melchor, director of Houston's Coalition for Life, said the clinic will encompass 78,000 square feet -- with one entire floor dedicated to abortions, including late-term abortions. She said she had reviewed building plans, permits and architectural drawings filed with the city of Houston.
"We've been following their expansion since 2006" when Planned Parenthood purchased the property, Melchor said, adding that she thought the most striking feature of the drawings is a planned ambulatory unit over the expanse of the third floor. A Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown Houston performed late-term abortions until a state law was passed in 2003 to require that abortions conducted on women beyond 16 weeks of pregnancy be done in a center equipped with an ambulatory unit, which that Planned Parenthood clinic did not have.
Planned Parenthood clinics offer women a wide range of health-care services, including pap tests, disease prevention and treatment, health-care information and birth control. Melchor acknowledged that the entire 78,000 square foot facility would be used for other health-care purposes but added, "Planned Parenthood is all about abortions."
Melchor said she suspects the clinic will be used to host international clients seeking abortions, especially late-term procedures. Dave Welch, director of the Houston pastors' group, said he believes the new clinic could replace the notorious Wichita, Kan., clinic operated by George Tiller, who is on trial for violating state laws regulating the practice of late-term abortions.
Melchor plans to ask the Houston City Council how they plan to address the issues that will arise with the clinic's operation, including how the city intends to dispose of aborted babies. She said she is dubious about getting an objective response since Mayor Bill White's director of health and environmental policy, Elena Marks, is national chairman of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Even if the city approves all the permits required to complete construction, Foraker said area pastors, along with TexasFamilies.org, a coalition of pro-life organizations, plan to press contractors to disassociate themselves from the project. By asking church members, businesses and the community to stop doing business with Planned Parenthood contractors, they hope to bring enough pressure to force them to withdraw their services to Planned Parenthood.
At the beginning of the Jan. 22 gathering, David Fannin, pastor of suburban Nassau Bay Baptist Church, compared the 3,000 lives lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- and the country's resolve afterward -- to the 3,700 lives lost each day to abortion. Will the nation, he asked, steel itself with the same resolve as the massive abortion clinic rises from the ground?
Copyright (c) 2009 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press/www.BPNews.net
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