planned parenthood

Congressional Republicans Launch Push to Defund Planned Parenthood

Image via Dominick Reuter/Reuters/RNS

House Republicans began their effort to de-fund Planned Parenthood Sept. 9 with the first in a series of hearings intended to make the case that the group is illegally harvesting and selling tissue from aborted fetuses, a claim the group vehemently denies.

The hearing in the House Judiciary Committee — titled “Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider” — is the first of several hearings expected this fall as three House committees pursue investigations of Planned Parenthood. House Republicans also launched a website Wednesday to track their investigations into the group.

Beyond the specific techniques under scrutiny, the hearing became an opportunity to air a broader agenda of reducing abortions generally. Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., opened the hearing with a call for Congress to pass legislation to bar all abortions after five months of gestation, which would “help ensure that the body parts of late-aborted babies cannot be sold because late-term abortions would be generally prohibited.”

WATCH: D.C. Protesters at Planned Parenthood Answer, 'What Are You Praying For?'

Image via JP Keenan/Sojourners

On Aug. 22, thousands of activists protested at Planned Parenthoods around the county, calling for an end to funding for clinics.

The protests came on the heels of last month's viral videos, released from little-known group Center for Medical Progress, which claimed to show Planned Parenthood employees discussing illegally harvesting and selling aborted fetal organs. Planned Parenthood has argued the videos are misleadling, deceptively edited from a conversation about legal fetal tissue use for research.

Though no Planned Parenthood clinic exists in Washington, D.C., protestors gathered a "public witness prayer event" at a construction site of what organizers said was a Planned Parenthood building in process.

Sojourners went to the rally to ask attendees, many self-described people of faith, what they were praying for. 

Our Social Commentary vs. the Gospel

typing on a tablet

Man typing on a tablet, guteksk7 /

Like many things — theological beliefs, worships styles, forms of baptism, and preferred interpretations of the Bible — Christians are divided when it comes to which social justice issues, culture wars, and current events are worth supporting and condemning or even talking about.

Followers of Christ can be against gay marriage or for it, Democrat or Republican, a pacifist or a soldier, a vegan or a meat-eater, an animal rights advocate or a hunter — Christians constantly contradict one another, and that’s OK.

Weekly Wrap 7.24.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Pope Francis Is Making Americans Uncomfortable — Why That’s a Good Thing

According to Gallup, Pope Francis’ favorability ratings have dropped from 76 percent in 2014 to 45 percent in 2015. America magazine writer Kerry Weber explains the pontiff’s recent dips in the U.S. polls.

2. Why Kylie Jenner Gets to Be ‘Just a Kid,’ But Amandla Stenberg Does Not

"America loves to defend those it perceives to be the most vulnerable — i.e. young white girls — at the expense of and detriment to young girls of color. … Though some may say this is just a pointless Instagram beef between children, this mentality of putting white womanhood on a pedestal has violent, real-world ramifications."

3. NASA Finds ‘Earth’s Bigger, Older Cousin’

Wait … what, now? According to NASA, its Kepler spacecraft has identified a planet some 1,400 light-years away — the first "nearly Earth-size planet to be found in a habitable zone of a start similar to our own," according to CNN.

Culture Wars and Destructive Dialogue

Not too long after being introduced to John 3:16, I was taught Psalm 139:13: “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Now that I was a Christian, it was important I understood that Christians are anti-abortion, that life begins at conception, and that terminating life is nothing short of murder. Throughout college, I carried the cause of the pro-life movement in a symbol tacked on my school bag: a miniature pair of feet, a replica of a 10-week old baby in utero, intricately shaped in sterling silver.

I didn’t think about it. I never HAD to think about it, having never carried an unwanted pregnancy. For me, the pro-life movement was simple, uncomplicated, pretty, and as sanitized as a small silver ornament. That is, until I moved to China, a country well known for its high rate of abortions — including forced abortions, particularly of baby girls.

The Planned Parenthood Scandal: Beyond the Morality Police

morality judgment illustration

Morality judgment illustration, VIGE.CO /

Our cultural pattern of becoming scandalized by the other side isn’t helping. Whichever side we are on, becoming the morality police is only making the scandal worse as we scapegoat and talk past each other. This pattern gets us stuck in a scandal of unhealthy righteous indignation over and against our opponents.

The alternative to getting stuck in a scandal isn’t to avoid scandals, but rather to go through them. As we go through them, we might just discover ourselves becoming un-scandalized as we see that the other is actually motivated by a good goal. In acknowledging the other’s good goal, we begin to see them as human and not the evil demons our minds have made them out to be.

How We Talk About Life — and Death

Living cells, mixed media artwork.

Living cells, mixed media artwork. Ruslan Kokarev /

It’s not often words escape us. But in the aftermath of the now viral recording(s) raising concerns over whether Planned Parenthood seeks profit from aborted fetal tissue — and the crassness with which its representative discusses how to accomplish it without “crushing” the tissue/organs — that’s where we were left: with no words. We confess to being at a complete loss of what to say in the face of humanity’s brokenness.

Beyond the ethical questions of how an organization receives payment for tissue sales or the debates around the potential benefits of the patients’ donations of fetal tissue, the videos are an in-your-face reminder of our culture’s blatant disrespect for life.

That disregard is not unique in our society, of course. Journalism: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Medicine: “There’s nothing more to be done. She’s a vegetable.” Justice system: “He’s gonna fry.” War: “Light ‘em up.” Uncomfortable questions about life and death and ethics are best papered over with emotionless cliché, obviously.

As a society and as individuals, when we fail to recognize the imago dei in others, we trend further away from our uniquely human capacity to empathize and closer to isolated, analytical, and almost robotic assessments of value.

Don’t Blame Planned Parenthood for Our Abortion Culture

Susan Montgomery /

Photo via Susan Montgomery /

I won’t pile on Dr. Nucatola. The video seems pretty disastrous for her and for Planned Parenthood.

I will pile on us. Us? Yes, we the people of the United States of America.

We are the ones who have created a society in which we have become utterly dependent on abortion.

We are the ones who choose every year to turn to abortion clinics and drugs to end one out of five healthy pregnancies.

We are the ones who keep having sex outside of committed and marital relationships — and thus risking an unwelcome pregnancy.

We are the ones who keep having sex without using contraceptives, even when they are readily available.

We are the ones who fight over the politics of abortion without doing much to reduce demand for abortion.

Bans on Abortion by Telemedicine Growing

RNS photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler /

An anti-abortion protester holds a sign in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. RNS photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler /

The war over abortion is going digital.

Missouri last month joined six other states that have enacted bans on abortion by telemedicine this year. That’s a process in which women take pregnancy-ending medication that a doctor remotely administers during a video conference.

The practice, available to women in their first nine weeks of pregnancy, is now prohibited in 11 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

In Iowa — where telemedicine abortions were pioneered — the Board of Medicine voted in June to effectively shut the practice down, and state legislators have declined to intervene in the dispute. A public hearing before the board is set for Aug. 28.

“Telemedicine is spreading across the country in chronic disease and mental health care, but abortion’s the only way we’re seeing it restricted,” said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute. “Whenever there’s an advancement in health care, an abortion restriction is never far behind.”