We need to support a new rule issued by the Obama administration to protect the funding of Planned Parenthood from recent conservative assaults on women's reproductive rights.
For the past year, Planned Parenthood has been enduring relentless attacks from members of the Religious Right and their elected representatives. Theocrats are now seeking to not just deny low-income women access to abortion on religious grounds, but access to contraception.
The new rule, which the Department of Health and Human Services proposed early in September, mandates that state governments cannot withhold Title X federal family planning money from Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics offer abortion services. Title X is the only federal program focused solely on providing family planning and related preventative services. In 2015, more than 4 million individuals received services through more than 3,900 Title X-funded health centers. Planned Parenthood has served about a third of these patients using $70 million a year received in Title X grants to subsidize contraception, and screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted infection. Title X does not allow any money to be used to pay for abortions. In spite of this, 11 states have already voted to block public funds from Planned Parenthood.
The administration's proposed rule will stop the assault against access to contraception for low-income women. The proposal is under attack by anti-abortion politicians intent on weaving their conservative religious ideologies into civil law. The rule would make politically and religiously motivated efforts to block women from accessing contraceptive care at Planned Parenthood a violation of federal law.
As freethinker and contraceptive rights crusader Margaret Sanger put it, "No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother."
After a 30-day comment period, ending on Oct. 7, the Department of Health and Human Services will reach a final decision on the rule based on public input. Your opinion counts! Please comment now!
Please comment to the Department of Health and Human Resources to vocalize your support for the proposed rule to protect the funding of Planned Parenthood and other Title X providers.
Click on the "Comment now" link on the right-hand side of the proposed rule document.
Feel free to utilize the talking points below, or cut and paste this message:
Please approve the proposed rule to make it against federal law for states to withhold Title X federal family planning money from Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics offer abortion services. This rule will ensure low-income women have access to affordable health care. The right to privacy is enshrined in our Constitution. Access to contraception should not be considered controversial, or be subject to the whims of the Religious Right.
Title X services have helped prevent millions of unwanted pregnancies. This rule is necessary to protect women against state-adopted policies that would reduce the access and effectiveness of Title X services and ultimately have a disastrous impact on women's health and lives.
Note: This is called a public comment period because your comments will be posted without change at the governmental website.
- Obama Moves to Protect Planned Parenthood Funding, Permanently
- Obama Introduces New Rule to Prevent States From Defunding Abortion Providers
- Obama Administration Protects Access to Health Care For Millions of People
Read details on the proposed rule here.
A sermonizing Wisconsin community college professor has agreed to mend his ways following the Freedom From Religion Foundation's intervention.
Madison College Professor Hiep S. Van Dong, an instructor in the School of Business and Applied Arts, had been encouraging students in his Leadership, Ethics and Development course to add religion to their lives, both verbally in class and via email. Van Dong explained to a student in an email that he has "discovered it isn't about do's and don'ts, it is about a personal relationship with a living God. It is not about earning my way to heaven or God's grace; however, it is about seeking a personable Creator and sustainer of my life." Van Dong also used "Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn," a religion-promoting tome by John C. Maxwell, an evangelical pastor, as a textbook. Dong had reportedly solicited the entire class to contact him personally about the "truth" in the book, stating that he "could not say it in class, given it is a public university."
Van Dong's promotion of religion constituted an official endorsement and advancement of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, FFRF pointed out to Madison College.
"Federal courts have upheld public universities' restrictions on a professor's religious expression in the classroom and other like settings," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote last month to Madison College School of Business and Applied Arts Dean Bryan Woodhouse. "These restrictions do not abridge the professor's free speech rights."
Woodhouse recently responded that he had conducted an inquiry and had asked Van Dong to modify his teaching approach.
"Instructor Van Dong and I have discussed that as public servants we cannot take a position of any kind for or against religion, and that our classrooms are filled with persons of all perspectives and that we have a great responsibility to maintain a classroom environment that welcomes all opinions," Woodhouse wrote back. "We are in firm agreement on this position, and Instructor Van Dong has submitted that he does not and will not encourage religion in the classroom as part of this or any other course that may be assigned."
Woodhouse added that John C. Maxwell's religion-infused work "Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn" was a textbook for the class for personal development and that students will be cued through a disclaimer to request alternative readings.
FFRF is appreciative of the measures that Madison College took in response to its letter.
"It's good that Madison College did the right thing," says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. "We hope that it will ensure all its instructors adhere to its policy."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a Madison, Wis.-based national state/church watchdog organization with almost 24,000 nonreligious members all over the country, including more than 1,300 in Wisconsin.
The nation’s largest nontheist organization has a fascinating lineup to offer at its annual convention in Pittsburgh in early October.
After eight years as a closeted atheist in the Bible Belt, a former conservative pastor will be coming out publicly at Freedom From Religion Foundation's gathering in Pittsburgh the weekend of Oct. 7-9. "Adam Mann" is co-founder of The Clergy Project, a support group for clergy who lose faith.
Humanist activist Rafida Bonya Ahmed, who survived a machete attack by fundamentalists in Bangladesh for being an atheist, will receive FFRF's new "Forward" award. (Her husband, Avijit Roy, was killed in the same attack.) Pennsylvania author Lauri Lebo, who covered the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, will be named 2016 Freethought Heroine. Marie Schaub will be honored as an "atheist in a foxhole" by FFRF for her work as plaintiff in a local FFRF lawsuit against the New Kensington-Arnold School District for having a granite Ten Commandments monument in front of a high school. And FFRF's Co-President Dan Barker will take to the podium to discuss his lawsuit against Congress and his new book God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.
The Friday keynote speaker will be Lawrence Krauss, the internationally known theoretical physicist. He will receive the Emperor Has No Clothes award from FFRF, reserved for public figures who make known their dissent from religion.
Barker, a former minister who became an atheist, and eminent Tufts philosopher Daniel C. Dennett are among the other founders of The Clergy Project. Dennett will be one of the convention's keynote speakers. His Saturday night speech is titled, "Has the dam broken? Omens and worries."
Other notables speaking at this year's convention include author Susan Jacoby and science author Jerry Coyne. Jacoby is the author of 11 books, most recently Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion. Jacoby is a previous recipient of FFRF's Freethought Heroine award. Coyne is professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. He has written 119 scientific papers and 150 popular articles, book reviews and a trade book about the evidence for evolution Why Evolution is True. Coyne will sign copies of his latest book, Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible.
Another co-founder of The Clergy Project who will speak at the convention is Linda LaScola. She is co-author, with Dennett, of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind and Preachers Who Are Not Believers. She is also editor of the Patheos blog, Rational Doubt: With Voices from the Clergy Project. LaScola is a clinical social worker with years of professional experience as a qualitative researcher and psychotherapist.