The Republicans must cease their relentless assault on Planned Parenthood.
For the umpteenth time, the GOP-controlled Congress has threatened to cut off reimbursement funds for the organization, this time as part of a larger plan to repeal Obamacare. House Speaker Paul Ryan recently announced Republicans will move to strip all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. This could cost the organization hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, and it's a highly unscrupulous ploy.
This must be emphasized: Planned Parenthood does not receive any direct funding from the federal government. It does get reimbursed for family planning services, which do not include abortion (except in narrow instances).
But that hasn't stopped the attacks on Planned Parenthood from members of the Religious Right and their elected representatives — attacks based on deception and misinformation. In reality, theocrats are seeking to not just deny low-income women access to abortion on religious grounds, but also access to contraception.
"Planned Parenthood has been a political target for years," NPR reports. "But recently, the partisan polarization has gone beyond abortion rights and into any federal funds going to the organization."
The primary organized opposition to reproductive rights in this country always has been religion, as FFRF co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor has repeatedly emphasized. Virtually every vocal opponent of contraception and abortion argues against these rights on the basis of God and the bible. In fact, the Freedom From Religion Foundation came into existence in good part because of the organized religious opposition to abortion rights. It is what opened the eyes of FFRF principal founder Anne Nicol Gaylor to the dangers of dogma being enshrined in in our laws.
The causes of freethought, women's rights and family planning are all inextricably linked.
"No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body," freethinker and contraceptive rights crusader Margaret Sanger stated. "No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother."
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards has vowed to offer full resistance to the GOP onslaught. "Not without one hell of a fight, they aren't," she recently tweeted a response to the defunding efforts.
FFRF stands in full solidarity with Planned Parenthood.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), representing more than 26,000 members across the country, has as its purposes the protection of the constitutional principle of separation between religion and government, and the education of the public about nonbelief.
A corruption scandal unfolding in Arkansas demonstrates the pitfalls of disbursing discretionary public grants to religious colleges.
"There's a massive scandal brewing in Arkansas involving Republican legislators and a conservative Christian college," Hemant Mehta writes on his Friendly Atheist blog. "Beginning in January of 2013, state Rep. Micah Neal worked with a senator to give $600,000 in taxpayer money to two nonprofits in the state in exchange for bribes. One of those groups was Ecclesia College in the northwest part of the state. The small bible school received a $200,000 gift from Neal and the other politician; in return, Neal got a kickback of $18,000."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is very familiar with Ecclesia College, since it played a key role in ending the flow of Arkansas state money to the institution. Early last year, FFRF protested the handing out of state money to the overtly religious entity, since the grants to the college violated both the Arkansas and the U.S. Constitutions.
"The Arkansas Constitution clearly prohibits funding religious ministries," FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote in a letter last February to Joe Willis, executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District. "And the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment strictly prohibits the government from advancing religion."
The Arkansas agency was laudably cooperative. Willis promised in his reply soon after to "make certain" that all future grants "will not be used to advance a religious purpose or cause."
It's clear now that the problem was manifold — not only were the grants constitutionally suspect, they were also mired in corruption.
"The malfeasance around the grants to Ecclesia College reveals that money of this sort can be dubious on multiple levels," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "This misappropriation of public funds would not have happened if the government had strictly applied the constitutionally mandated separation of state and church."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a state/church watchdog organization with more than 26,000 members nationwide, including in Arkansas.