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Rev. Tom Davis

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Blessing (Not Cursing) Planned Parenthood

Posted: 08/01/11 04:39 PM ET

During this past spring more than half of America's fifty state legislatures have ignored people's economic problems and instead become obsessed with passing legislation to defund, harass, and block the work of Planned Parenthood. In Biblical terms, what is being done to this 96 year old organization is "cursing." In scripture to curse a person or a group is to bring condemnation upon them, to put them outside the protection of God and/or the community.

When legislators and the entire anti-abortion movement which drives them engage in "cursing" they first devalue the members of the group they are attacking, characterizing them as strange people with alien values. They then make endless and groundless charges against Planned Parenthood, seeking to stop its work. This leads to the "cursed" group being shunned by other groups (barred from United Way campaigns because it is "controversial.") and the process continues until the people of the community begin to see the group as evil, a threat to families or at the very least, "not like us." This kind of cursing was done to the NAACP in the 1950s and to the ACLU in the days of McCarthyism.

You know you are dealing with cursing when a person who works at Planned Parenthood has to think about how to answer when they are asked, "Where do you work?" If they say "Planned Parenthood", will they have to defend themselves instead of enjoying a social gathering? The end result of all this cursing is that the group is placed outside the protective umbrella of social acceptance and, in effect, turned over to violence. And violence has come to Planned Parenthood for years in the form of physical harassment, arson and the murder of two of its staff.

Ask the average person why Planned Parenthood is singled out this way and they will tell you that it is because Planned Parenthood performs abortions. But abortion is not the reason.

We know it's not the reason because in the decades before 1970 when Planned Parenthood did not do abortions, when they focused instead on contraception to save women from the dangers of illegal abortion, you find the exact same cursing. Religious opponents of that time also said that Planned Parenthood was a threat to families, an alien organization, and a group that practiced murder.

At the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1934, their Social Service Commission said that no social policy was so "vicious and immoral" as contraception.

One example of the murder charge appears in a 1948 political cartoon published by a Roman Catholic journal in Massachusetts, The Catholic Mirror. In the cartoon a sleeping baby is being menaced by a hand holding a knife which it was about to plunge into the baby's chest. On the knife it said "birth control." On the arm was printed the words "Planned Parenthood." You see, without abortion in the picture, they were still portrayed as baby-killers.

It's simply the case that there are powerful religions which do not accept the right of a woman to determine her own reproductive life. In the past these churches also wanted contraception to be illegal When Margaret Sanger started to introduce birth control to American society in 1916, it was a crime to distribute contraceptive material or even information about birth control. And every major religious institution in the nation either agreed with the ban or was silent. When the anti-contraception churches lost that battle, they wanted to keep birth control as inaccessible as possible. Today they still fight to keep it from poor women. And of course, those religious groups want abortion to once again be a crime. They will not concede that a woman has the right to determine her own reproductive life.

In all those battles, Planned Parenthood was the major obstacle to getting what they want. It still is today and so they continue to curse it.

The most effective response to cursing is public support, especially by clergy and laypeople who can directly counter the religious attacks on Planned Parenthood with a religious defense of its work. It is not hard to do. Far from being an evil materialistic organization, Planned Parenthood helps the poor, the alienated, and women who have nowhere else to turn for health care. By all Biblical standards, that's not something to curse: that's something to celebrate.