As a woman, as a mother, as a former client, as a former employee, as a colleague and yes, as a religious leader, I stand with Planned Parenthood. I abhor, in the words of PPFA's own Clergy Advocacy Board, "the politically motivated, heavily edited, and secretly recorded videotape falsely portraying Planned Parenthood's participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research." I concur that using "fraudulent and extreme tactics to spread false allegations about Planned Parenthood's role in tissue donation is theologically and morally reprehensible."
Abortion and tissue donation are complex moral decisions and they are procedures with moral gravity, and somehow that has been lost in the news and online media coverage of the videos. Majorities of most religious groups -- with the exception of white evangelical Protestants, Latino Catholics, and Latino Protestants -- believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. At least fifteen religious denominations have passed policies supporting access to legal and safe abortion.
During the past 35 years, I have counseled hundreds of women dealing with unintended pregnancies as well as wanted pregnancies where something has gone terribly wrong. I know firsthand that a woman makes the decision to have an abortion with serious reflection, consultation with the most important people in her life, insights from her faith and values and a deep consideration of her very specific circumstances. The real life stories of women demonstrate the morality of decisions about abortion. Although I have not personally counseled women about tissue donation, as it has only recently been a legal option again in some parts of the United States, I applaud the women and couples who consent to donate fetal tissue as a way to further medical research.
The physicians and clinic staff -- and the researchers using fetal tissue to create immunizations and new treatments for life-threatening diseases -- are helping to save lives and protect futures. There is no question, however, that providers must recognize that abortion is a complex moral procedure requiring their utmost respect. Those who oversee clinics and research labs must assure that their employees always demonstrate professionalism, compassion and moral sensitivity. Further, leaders of all faiths must be prepared to offer counsel compassionately, competently and justly to individuals and families faced with difficult pregnancy decisions.
As a person of faith and as a religious leader, I affirm that life is sacred. My support for sexuality education, contraception and abortion is grounded in that understanding. The sanctity of life is best upheld when it is not created carelessly or unintentionally -- and that is why there must be high quality sexuality information and education and access to affordable contraceptive care. It is precisely because life and parenthood are so precious that no woman should be coerced to carry a pregnancy to term -- and that is why I support women making their own moral decisions about their pregnancies.
Let us remember that the goal of those behind the videos is putting Planned Parenthood out of business -- and ending access to safe and legal abortion. Stopping federal funding to Planned Parenthood will end access to birth control, Pap smears, STI prevention and cancer screening to millions of women. Playing politics to restrict or deny access to family planning services is morally wrong. It will effectively result in coercing women into childbearing. In the cacophony of views we have heard in the past two weeks, let us remember that Planned Parenthood saves lives, promotes human flourishing and advances the common good.