Planned Parenthood's rejection of a White House offer to maintain federal funding if it drops its abortion business demonstrates how important the lethal procedure is to the organization, Southern Baptist leaders said.
The informal proposal and the refusal—reported March 6 by The New York Times—came as Congress and President Trump consider legislation to cut funds for the country's scandal-plagued, leading abortion provider. Both budget bills and a new health care replacement measure proposed in the House of Representatives would slash funds for Planned Parenthood, which receives more than $500 million annually in government grants and reimbursements.
Planned Parenthood's top officers were unequivocal in their opposition to eliminating abortion after The Times reported the outreach to the organization's allies.
"Planned Parenthood is proud to provide abortion—a necessary service that's as vital to our mission as birth control or cancer screenings," tweeted Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), on March 6.
The rejection of the offer reveals "that without abortion, there would be no Planned Parenthood," Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.
Planned Parenthood "is not a 'health care' organization but a storefront for an industry that devalues human life and exploits families and communities," said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
"This is just another example of why Planned Parenthood deserves not a penny of taxpayer funding," he said. "I pray that we will see the day soon when federal support of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry is seen as a piece of history from a bygone, more morally confused time."
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a well-known cultural commentator, said the development shows Planned Parenthood is "monomaniacally committed to abortion. They are the central agency of the culture of death in this society."
"[W]hat Planned Parenthood is saying here is that their values are the values of abortion," Mohler said on the March 8 episode of "The Briefing," his weekday podcast. "To what extent? To an extent that they will put at risk half a billion dollars of taxpayer money in annual funding because they are so committed to abortion."
In another Twitter response March 6, PPFA's Richards said, "We won't back down in the face of threats or intimidation, or turn our backs on the patients who count on us. Not today, tomorrow, not ever."
Dawn Laguens, PPFA's executive vice president, tweeted March 6: "Offering money to Planned Parenthood to abandon our patients and our values is not a deal that we will ever accept.
"Also, say it with me folks: Abortion is health care," Laguens tweeted later in the day.
In acknowledging the offer, President Trump told The Times for its March 6 issues: "As I said throughout the campaign, I am pro-life and I am deeply committed to investing in women's health and plan to significantly increase federal funding in support of non-abortion services such as cancer screenings. Polling shows the majority of Americans oppose public funding for abortion, even those who identify as pro-choice. There is an opportunity for organizations to continue the important work they do in support of women's health, while not providing abortion services."
The effort to cut public funds for Planned Parenthood has grown through years marked by the organization's continued reception of large sums of government money, by its performance of nearly a third of the abortions in the United States while non-abortion services declined, and by a variety of scandals.
PPFA and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements in the organization's latest financial year, 2014-15. Planned Parenthood's affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent reporting year for which statistics are available.
The latest scandal was unveiled in 2015, when a series of undercover videos appeared to provide evidence that Planned Parenthood was trading in body parts from aborted babies. The secretly recorded videos allegedly showed executives discussing their sale of fetal parts, as well as their apparent willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve organs for sale and use.
The ERLC not only is involved in its normal work with Congress, but it has launched an initiative in the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. For the first time, the entity is conducting an online advertising campaign to rally support for the congressional effort.
Nearly 8,300 people have signed an ERLC digital petition for delivery to congressional leaders as part of the campaign. The petition is available for signing at http://erlc.com/initiatives/defund-planned-parenthood.
In the last congressional session, both the Senate and House approved legislation to cut funding for Planned Parenthood by about 90 percent and direct it to federally qualified health centers that do not perform abortions. President Obama vetoed the measure, however.
A special House investigative panel recommended in a final report in January that Congress eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood and certify such federal funds go to comprehensive health-care providers that do not perform abortions.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.