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Faith Leaders Denounce Budget Impasse Over Misleading Claims About Abortion

The following is an unedited version of a press release from Faith in Public Life.

As a government shutdown looms and Congressional leaders indicate that the final sticking point in budget negotiations revolves around extreme proposals to strip funding for women’s health centers, pro-life religious leaders and leading advocates for preventing unplanned pregnancy are speaking out.

Faith leaders are reminding political leaders that women’s health centers provide critical, life-saving services to women, infants, and families.  They’re also making clear that this debate isn’t about abortion funding, since federal law bars any government money from going toward abortion services.  Faith leaders are urging Congress to keep government open, since a shutdown will harm our economy and punish members of the military, government employees, and thousands of hard-working American families.

“I am a pro-life pastor, and I know that the concerns regarding Planned Parenthood are misguided.  It is clearly understood that there is no federal funding for abortion – end of discussion,” said Rev.Derrick Harkins, pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church. What we’re really talking about is this: Planned Parenthood provides critical services for at-risk pregnancies and prenatal care, often in underserved communities.  We should have robust debate about social issues, but we can’t let that debate derail our economy by forcing a government shutdown that hurts hardworking families.”

"As a pro-life Catholic, I’m morally outraged by this game begun by the Tea Party," said Steve Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. "Threatening to shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood is a distraction that won’t balance the budget or prevent the tragedy of abortion. The Hyde Amendment already prevents federal funding of abortion, and Republican budget cuts would eviscerate other desperately important programs that help support pregnant women. Americans want leadership and governance from our representatives, not political games."

As the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has stated, the Title X program plays a critical role in reducing unplanned pregnancies, providing health care to millions of women, and reducing abortion.  In 2009 alone, Title X provided services to more than 5.1 million women and men through a network of more than 4,500 public, private, and non-profit clinics.  Contraceptive services at Title X-funded clinics in 2008 helped to avert some 973,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 433,000 unplanned births and 406,000 abortions.

“I understand that people of good will can differ over abortion, but I find it incomprehensible that the American government could shut down – not over major fiscal issues – but over funding for the very preventive services for women that most directly help to reduce abortion,” said Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.  “Is this really the most pressing fiscal issue in the nation?  Should this issue really be the pivot point for budget negotiations in which trillions of dollars are at stake?   Clearly, the answer is no, and for that reason alone, the current impasse is outrageous.”

“As a pastor committed to protecting the sanctity of life, I am thankful that it is against the law for any federal funds to pay for abortions whether at Planned Parenthood or anywhere else,” said Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland – A Church Distributed.

 “It is good to continue challenging abortion, but to use it as a decoy issue that stalls a budget resolution is harmful to both causes. The federal dollars that go to these facilities ensure that economically vulnerable women get preventive services or the pre-natal care they need to raise healthy families.  We need to reduce federal spending and abortion, but we need at the same time to keep the government up and running for the sake of vital services to our military, our vulnerable citizens and our tentative economic recovery.  Our political leaders need to stop playing politics with important moral issues and focus on the matter at hand—getting our country back on track, creating jobs, and working toward the common good.”


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