By / Jan 4

On Jan. 3, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a regulatory change that allows pharmacy chains and local pharmacies to distribute the first of the two-stage abortion pill regiment known as Mifepristone

Why does this matter?

This change will have devastating and widespread effects on preborn children, their mothers, our communities, and likely many pharmacists in abortion-friendly states.

First, there are the obvious and deep concerns about ending the lives of the preborn and grave dangers to women’s health with these medications. Expanded access will mean even more of these life-threatening pills will be available in our communities. While the FDA notes that it does not recommend purchasing mifepristone outside of the Mifepristone REMS Program, the loosening of these rules will inevitably lead to a growing supply and greater demand for the product, especially in states with regulations and bans on the medication.

Alongside issues of human dignity and abortion itself lie increased religious liberty concerns for those employed by pharmacies, especially large retail chains, who may be forced to distribute abortion medications against their conscience as part of their jobs. While some chains provide religious accommodations, it is unknown how many pharmacies in states that allow these medications will seek to protect the conscience rights of individuals who object on religious grounds, particularly in light of the growing push for abortion access today.

What is the ERLC doing on this new rule?

The ERLC has long sought to push back on and seek state/federal solutions to stop expansion and use of these life-taking drugs. For decades, the ERLC and other pro-life organizations worked to prevent the introduction of these pills and have subsequently sought to regulate access ever since. We have made federal regulation on the abortion pill a top priority in our forthcoming legislative agenda.

As we work toward pursuing a culture of life that not only protects the life of the preborn but also cares for vulnerable women and their families, the ERLC remains committed to upholding the dignity of every human life and combating the lies of the predatory abortion industry that benefits from this regulatory change from the FDA.

How do abortion pills work?

In a previous explainer, the ERLC noted that the method approved by the FDA for chemical abortions is a two-step process involving the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone ends a pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone, which is needed to maintain a pregnancy. Because this hormone is blocked, the uterine lining begins to shed, removing the child (in the embryonic state) that was attached. 

The second step, which occurs 24 to 48 hours later, requires taking misoprostol which causes the woman to expel the child and the uterine lining in a matter similar to a miscarriage. The second drug in this regiment is commonly used by doctors and is carried by most pharmacies today, while mifepristone is designed specifically for abortive use and is the main focus of this rule change.

It should also be noted that the FDA authorizes mifepristone to only be taken in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, although many clinics and medical providers began offering it up to 12 and 13 weeks given the push to expand access to the pill in light of the June 2022 Dobbs decision. According to Pam Belluck of The New York Times, some pills were even made available by prescription to women who are not pregnant but who feel they could use the pills someday. 

What led to this decision?

Following the demise of Roe v. Wade, demand for the abortion pill has grown exponentially, and some have gone to great lengths to obtain it. This regulatory change has been a primary focus of the Biden administration which has been working to expand abortion access since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling last year. Before the current regulatory change to the Mifepristone REMS Program, pregnant women could only legally obtain the medication with a prescription at specially certified clinics, hospitals, or mail-order pharmacies.

In April 2021, the FDA issued a letter stating that it would temporarily stop requiring an in-person visit to prescribe the abortion pill. The change was made permanent in December 2021. These moves followed a January 2021 decision by the Supreme Court to restore a federal rule that required a woman to go to a healthcare facility in person to obtain the drug because of its dangers

The FDA’s recent decision removed the in-person requirement from the Mifepristone REMS Program while leaving intact other major requirements that pharmacies will have to meet if they want to distribute this medication, including how the drug “must be prescribed by a health care provider that meets certain qualifications and is certified under the Mifepristone REMS Program” and that “certified pharmacies must ensure mifepristone is dispensed to the patient in a timely manner.” If these requirements are agreed upon and the pharmacy is certified under the program, local drugstores and chains will now have the option to carry mifeprex and its generic mifepristone tablets.

This change will mean expanded access to these life-taking drugs and will be a boon to the abortion industry that has long preyed upon women and their children for profit. Abortion access providers and the abortion industry lauded this decision as a positive step for the public. President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation Alexis McGill Johnson celebrated this decision noting that it was a “game changer for people” and “a step in the right direction for health equity.” 

Two manufacturers of this medication, Danco Laboratories, which makes mifeprex, and GenBioPro, which makes the generic version, also released statements acknowledging that the agency had informed them of the action and promoting access to their products. Both applauded the expanded availability to local and national pharmacies, but decried that many will still not have access to these drugs due to the restrictions at the state level. 

By / Dec 1

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 1, 2021—Brent Leatherwood, acting president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, commented on today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.

“After listening to today’s proceedings, I’m left asking a simple question: What good is precedent if it is bad? At multiple points, whether it was, for example, the faulty reasoning of Justice Harry Blackmun in his Roe opinion or the irrelevance of the viability standard, it should be abundantly clear that the precedent in the area of abortion is completely unmoored from the Constitution itself. Furthermore, it completely disregards the individual whose rights are most affected: the preborn child. That cannot continue. Denying the dignity of our most vulnerable neighbors should not be a hallmark of American jurisprudence.

“While it is difficult to predict the ultimate outcome in any case by simply listening to oral arguments, the Court has before it a once-in-a-generation opportunity to dismantle the abortion framework that has built up following the decisions in both Roe and Casey. The Court should not hesitate to do so.”

The ERLC and other pro-life organizations filed an amicus brief in the Dobbs case earlier this year. Additionally, the ERLC has created an explainer on the case.

The ERLC will host a special online event, Monday, Dec. 6 at 10:00 a.m. EST, to further discuss Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and how the case could affect the future of the prolife movement.

By / Jul 24

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss what is happening in China, California’s record breaking coronavirus week, the Bahamas, opening day for baseball, and a surprise Taylor Swift album. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including a piece by Travis Wussow, Josh Wester, and Brent Leatherwood with an “Explainer: How should Christians think about singing in church during COVID-19,” Alex Ward with “Why God’s Word is better than fiction with combatting sin,” and Stacy Reaoch with “What do our words say to a watching world? Glorifying God by respecting those with whom we disagree.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Jason Thacker for a conversation about life and ministry.

About Jason

Jason Thacker serves as the Creative Director and as Chair of Research in Technology Ethics. In these roles, he develops content and resources in the area of technology ethics and oversees all creative projects including design, video, web, audio, and print media. Jason is the author of The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity with Zondervan. He is a graduate of The University of Tennessee and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Dorie and they have two sons. You can connect with him on  Twitter: @jasonthacker

ERLC Content


  1. Chinese ambassador struggles to explain Xinjiang footage of blindfolded prisoners
  2. U.S. orders China’s Houston consulate to close
  3. California breaks record with over 12,000 new coronavirus cases
  4. The White House has a list of 11 cities in need of aggressive action to combat Covid-19
  5. The Bahamas banned flights from the US and other hard-hit countries in effort to contain coronavirus spread
  6. During Coronavirus Lockdowns, Some Doctors Wondered: Where Are the Preemies?
  7. More needed to be done to disavow Margaret Sanger
  8. The Baptist Record ceases printing, moves to free digital service
  9. SBC President J.D. Greear says Summit RDU will not hold full-scale worship gatherings for the remainder of 2020.
  10. Baseball Shouts ‘Play Ball!’ But For How Long? A Nervous 2020 Season Begins 
  11. Taylor Swift announces a surprise studio album
  12. Friends mourn pastor fatally struck on Sherman highway while helping others


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By / Jun 12

What just happened?

As part of the economic response to the COVID-19 crisis, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which made it possible for some small businesses, nonprofits, and houses of worship to qualify for a portion of the $367 billion in Small Business Administration (SBA) loan guarantees and subsidies, known as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

More than three dozen Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country also took advantage of the program, receiving more than $80 million in forgivable loans. The Small Business Administration, Congressional Republican, and pro-life leaders are calling on the abortion provider to return the money.

“At a time when all of us are concerned about protecting lives and livelihoods,” said ERLC president Russell Moore, “it is maddening to see, once more, that nothing—not even a global pandemic—will keep Planned Parenthood from pursuing death."

The federal government is "rightfully requesting" the return of the loans, added Moore, “We must remain focused on defeating this virus and saving lives. Planned Parenthood's actions show it is not interested in the former because it has never cared about the latter.”

Isn’t it illegal for taxpayer dollars to fund abortion?

For the past 40 years, government health programs like Medicaid have been prevented from paying for abortions because of the Hyde Amendment. The amendment is not a permanent law, but merely a set of amendments attached each year as a temporary “rider” to the Congressional appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). (The Hyde Amendment is named after Henry Hyde, a Republican Congressman and who served Illinois’ 6th District from 1975–2006.) The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds from being expended for abortion or health coverage that includes coverage of abortion.

Courts have held that the Hyde Amendment must be individually attached to a funding stream in order for those funds to be protected by the Hyde Amendment. In some cases, the Hyde Amendment is not attached to the funding appropriations because the program could not be used for health care spending The PPP is one such program. SBA loans are normally merely guaranteed by the federal government. But the SBA loans under the PPP are forgivable, which means that under certain conditions they do not have to be paid back.

Because the PPP loans are not “Hyde protected,” the prohibition against abortion funding doesn’t apply.

What is the argument that Planned Parenthood should not be eligible for the funding?

The way Planned Parenthood is excluded from PPP is through the minimum size standard and SBA affiliation rules. Only entities with fewer than 500 employees and that aren’t affiliated with other entities are eligible for the program. Based on SBA's affiliation rules, all Planned Parenthood affiliates are considered a single entity even though they function like franchises.

A group of Congressional Republicans—19 senators and 75 representatives—sent a letter to the SBA detailing how Planned Parenthood violated these rules. In the letter they point out that Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) makes no attempt to hide its control over its affiliates nationwide. PPFA refers to its affiliates as “local offices” despite being separately incorporated. PPFA defines itself as including 55 affiliates, “which along with PPFA directors collectively constitute PPFA’s membership.” Planned Parenthood affiliates “in turn control 110 ancillary entities.”

Even Planned Parenthood once recognized they were not eligible for PPP loans. On March 25, Planned Parenthood Action—the lobbying arm of the organization—issued a statement noting that the CARES Act “gives the Small Business Administration broad discretion to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates . . . and deny them benefits under the new small business loan program.”

Will Planned Parenthood be forced to return the funds?

The SBA has reportedly sent letters to several Planned Parenthood affiliates saying that the clinics are “ineligible for a Paycheck Protection Program loan under the applicable affiliation rules and size standards, consistent with Congressional intent, and that the loan you have received should be returned.”

According to the letters, the SBA "will conduct an investigation" if Planned Parenthood disputes the findings "to assess PPD’s eligibility for a Paycheck Protection Program loan and the basis for PPD’s eligibility certification." According to CNN, the agency also requested documents certifying certification within 10 days of receiving the letter, noting that SBA may refer borrowers found to have knowingly made false certifications “for appropriate civil and criminal penalties.”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America has called the letters a “political attack” but have not said whether they will encourage their affiliates to return the funds.

By / Aug 30

Over the past two weeks there have been several pro-life related government actions in Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, and Vermont. Here is a round-up of the latest news:

Vermont hospital accused of forcing nurse to participate in abortion

The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) sent a notice to the University of Vermont Medical Center claiming the hospital violated the civil rights law by requiring a nurse to assist with an abortion against her wishes. According to Roger Severino, the director of the HHS’s civil rights office, the nurse feared losing her job and felt coerced to participate in an elective abortion.

The HHS says the hospital violated the 1970s federal law known as the Church amendments, which includes a requirement that employees of health-care facilities that accept federal money not be compelled to participate in abortions if the procedure conflicts with their beliefs. The notice gives the medical center 30 days to begin bringing its personnel rules into compliance with federal requirements about employees’ participation in procedures to which they have conscience or religious objections, says the Washington Post.

Federal judge blocks Missouri’s 8-week abortion ban

In May, Missouri passed a law that that bans abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy without exceptions for cases of rape or incest, making it among the most restrictive abortion policies in the nation. But on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs issued a temporary injunction while the law is being challenged in federal court. Judge Sachs said the law is likely unconstitutional and that Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri will likely succeed in their lawsuit to block it.

Missouri currently only has one clinic, located in St. Louis, that performs abortions. The law would have blocked about half of abortions performed there, said the judge.

According to the Associated Press, Judge Sachs did allow one portion of the policy to take effect: a ban on abortions based solely on race, sex, or a diagnosis indicating the potential for Down syndrome. He wrote that abortions based on Down syndrome would be “somewhat rare, given the window of time needed for adequate testing and consultation.”

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, whose office is responsible for defending the law in court, praised the decision to allow the prohibition against abortions based on Down syndrome. “As the father of a child with special needs, Attorney General Schmitt is particularly sensitive to suggestions that an unborn child who will have special needs is any lesser of a human being, and we’re glad that provisions relating to that issue were left in place in the judge’s ruling today,” said a spokesman for Schmitt.

Planned Parenthood whistleblower wins $3 million for wrongful termination

An Arizona jury awarded a former Planned Parenthood employee $3 million after she claimed she was wrongfully terminated for alerting her supervisors to unsafe medical practices at one of their clinics.

Mayra Rodriguez was working as an administer for several Arizona clinics when she made several complaints against doctors and questioned business practices, the Arizona Republic reported. According to court records, Rodriguez was concerned about the “substantial health, welfare, and safety risks to these patients, as well as the substantial risk to the health, safety, and welfare of the inevitable future of [Planned Parenthood Arizona] patients." One incident included a failure to report that a minor with an adult partner was seeking an abortion.

After being fired, Rodriguez contacted Abby Johnson, who runs And Then There Were None, which helps abortion workers who want to leave the industry. Johnson told World magazine that Rodriquez wants to “focus on the fact that Planned Parenthood has been harming women and that what they talk about in the media is the complete opposite of what they do in their clinics.”

The jury unanimously awarded her the $3 million without ever asking for a specific dollar amount.

Appeals court upholds injunction on Indiana abortion law

According to the Associated Press, Indiana generally bars abortions for minors living at home without their parents’ consent. But a girl can seek an exception if a court deems her mature enough or finds an abortion is in her best interest. In 2017, Indiana passed a law that made it more difficult for the courts to allow minor girls to get an abortion without their parents’ knowledge.

The law was immediately challenged by Planned Parenthood, and a temporary injunction was approved by a U.S. District Court judge. On Tuesday, the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 ruling upholding the injunction. The court ruled that law is likely to be unconstitutional.

By / Mar 1

What just happened?

Last Friday the Department of Health and Human Services issued a new final rule to reinstate Title X regulations that separate taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. The new rule shifts funding from abortion providers—such as Planned Parenthood—and steers some of it toward faith-based care providers.

What is the Title X funding program?

Title X or Title X Family Planning is the common name for Public Law 91-572—the “Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970.” Title X is a federal grant program “dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services.” The funds—currently $286.5 million a year—are given to the individual states who, based on federal rules and regulations, disperse it to qualified Title X clinics.

The statute prohibits this money from being used to support abortion as a method of family planning. According to the law, “[n]one of the funds appropriated under this subchapter shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

Does the rule cut Title X funding?

No, the rule will not cut funding for legitimate family planning services (i.e., those not related to abortion).

If Title X already prohibits funding of abortion, why is the new rule necessary?

Title X allows grant money to be “used only to support preventive family planning services.” All this really means, though, is that grant recipients like Planned Parenthood cannot directly use money from the federal government for abortion services. But money is fungible. A dollar spent for one purpose can also cover other purposes. For example, the money the federal government gives to Planned Parenthood can be used indirectly to cover operating and overhead costs such as rent and staff salary. This allows Planned Parenthood to provide abortions that are essentially subsidized by the government.

To prevent this from happening, former President Reagan issued a regulation that required that Title X projects be organized so that they are “physically and financially separate” from prohibited abortion activities. This regulation was challenged in the courts, but was upheld in the 1991 Supreme Court ruling, Rust v. Sullivan.

When former President Clinton took office, he reversed that regulation, and it was never reinstated. Former President Obama issued an additional regulation prohibiting states from defunding or deprioritizing abortion businesses in issuing subgrants with their Title X money. (This regulation was overturned by Congress in March 2017.) President Trump’s rule is loosely based on the Reagan-era framework.

Will this rule “defund” Planned Parenthood?

No, though it does reduce the amount of money Planned Parenthood will be able to receive from the Federal government.

The new rule imposes a statutory requirement that none of the funds appropriated for Title X may be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning, as well as related statutory requirements. This means that if Planned Parenthood conducts abortions or offers abortion-related services at a specific clinic, that facility will be unable to receive Title X funds. The result is that Planned Parenthood is expected to lose about $50 million to $60 million—about 10 percent—of the $543 million in government grants and reimbursements they receive each year.

While this is a positive and laudable step to restore the intent of Title X, the executive branch is limited in what it can do in preventing abortion providers from receiving government funding. The defunding of groups like Planned Parenthood must ultimately come from changes in the law made by the legislative branch.

Does this rule prevent Title X clinics from counseling women about abortion?

No. While President Trump’s rule is based on the Reagan-era framework, it does not reimplement the prohibition against counseling about abortion. Title X clinics would, however, be prohibited from referring for abortion.

Will this regulation force Planned Parenthood to choose between receiving Title X funding and performing abortions?

Not necessarily, but this new regulation does require a “disentanglement” of funding. Planned Parenthood and other Title X clinics would need to change the way they operate and possibly reorganize their legal structures in order to comply with the new regulation. But since the Reagan-era, technology and other regulations have made it much easier for organizations like Planned Parenthood to comply with the rule in a way that allows them to continue to perform abortions and still receive Title X grants.

The increase of medical abortions (i.e., using drugs such as Mifepruex to induce abortion) has reduced both the number of personnel and the type of facilities needed for Planned Parenthood to conduct abortions. For example, four states allow women the ability to speak with a doctor from their own home and to receive their medications by mail. Some other states use a form of telemedicine abortion called “the Iowa model.” As Eric Wicklund explains,

Current FDA rules restrict the drug – also known as Mifepruex – to clinical settings, specifically excluding pharmacies, so that it can’t be prescribed or mailed. That has given rise to a form of telemedicine abortion called “the Iowa model,” in which the patient visits a clinic and consults via telemedicine with a clinician in another location. In that setting, the clinician examines the patient remotely, consults with a nurse or healthcare worker at the patient’s bedside, then decides whether to approve the use of mifepristone, which is in a locked cabinet at the clinic that can be remotely opened by the clinician.

By using a telemedicine process, abortion clinics could assign a single small room and one employee to conduct abortions on the premises and still be in compliance with the regulation. And this is just one of the many ways Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers may be able to avoid complying with the intent of Title X and the new regulation.

What is ERLC’s position on the new rule?

When the rule was proposed last year, ERLC President Russell Moore issued a statement, ahead of the ERLC submitting public comments in support of the rule, saying:

I welcome this announcement from the administration of its intention to propose a rule clearly stating that family planning does not include abortion. This is a critical point to make, because the facts are clear: without abortion, there would be no Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is not a ‘healthcare’ organization but a storefront for an industry that devalues human life and exploits families and communities.

This rule from the Department of Health and Human Services is a responsible and commendable step toward our goal of totally separating taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. We will work to make sure the rule remains strong as it works through interagency review. At the same time, we know Planned Parenthood will do everything in its power to maneuver around this rule, even if enacted. That being the case, we will continue to call upon Congress to take legislative action, and we will not stop until abortion is no longer supported with even a penny of taxpayer funds.

When the rule was finalized, Moore expressed gratitude for the administration's action "that states unequivocally that family planning does not include abortion." The HHS rule is, "a responsible step toward our goal of totally separating taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. Without abortion, there would be no Planned Parenthood because, according to their own president, it is their 'core mission.'"

"We know this profit-driven industry, which devalues human life and exploits families, will do everything in its power to maneuver around this rule as they seek to use taxpayer dollars for abortion," he said in written comments for Baptist Press. "That being the case, we are thankful for these regulations from HHS and continue to call upon Congress to take legislative action. We will not stop until abortion is no longer supported with even a penny of taxpayer funds."

By / Jul 25

Matt, Travis, and Steven discuss the latest from Capitol Hill including: rumors about the effort to defund Planned Parenthood; prayer for the persecuted church; State Department international religious freedom policy); and the role out of the Democrat’s new populist branding.


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By / Jul 10

The right approach to healthcare policy is a matter on which reasonable people can disagree and is an issue that falls outside the ERLC’s mandate and charge as an organization. But while Southern Baptists hold a variety of views about healthcare policy, including the appropriate role of government, we are nevertheless united in advocating for healthcare policies which affirm human dignity and affirm the ways that Christians and people of conscience have contributed to the practice of medicine in the United States.

Accordingly, we believe any healthcare legislation considered by the Congress must do three things: redirect government funds from Planned Parenthood, ensure that no taxpayer funding is used for abortion services, and protect the consciences of medical professionals who may be otherwise required to act against their moral convictions in the course of their jobs.

Congress is currently considering a major overhaul of the Affordable Care Act; whatever comes from the Senate negotiations and the conference discussions, the ERLC maintains three priorities:

1. Defund Planned Parenthood and Redirect Funds to FQHCs

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the United States. Investigative journalism has demonstrated that Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted babies to research facilities and works to expand the market for baby parts. In spite of this, Planned Parenthood receives almost a half billion dollars in taxpayer money every year. Since government funding makes up 40 percent of Planned Parenthood’s revenue each year, ending this government funding has been a longstanding pro-life goal.

Planned Parenthood targets underprivileged areas for its abortion and contraception services, and provides other incidental medical services. However, Federally Qualified Health Centers provide a much wider range of health services and much broader geographic coverage. FQHCs also differ from Planned Parenthood in that they do not provide abortion service. Redirecting money to FQHCs would allow women to continue receive the health care they need, even with a reduced number of Planned Parenthood facilities.

2. Ensure no taxpayer funding goes to abortion services

Abortion is not healthcare. As such, taxpayer money designated for healthcare should never be used to pay for abortion services. Whatever changes may be made to existing healthcare laws, Congress should ensure that no tax credits, subsidies, or other sources of federal funding may be used for abortion services.

Since 1976, taxpayer funds have been protected from funding abortion in large part by what is now called the Hyde Amendment. In the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, the Hyde Amendment was introduced to prevent taxpayer dollars from being spent on abortion. Since its enactment, Congress has passed the amendment as an appropriations rider that expires each year. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would codify the Hyde Amendment and make it permanent by prohibiting federal funds from being expended for abortion or health insurance that includes coverage for elective abortions.

3. Protect the consciences of medical professionals

Pro-life healthcare professionals should have the right to administer care in accordance with their consciences. No healthcare worker should be forced to participate in abortions or other medical procedures that conflict with their religiously informed conscience. To protect this right, the Conscience Protection Act would give healthcare professionals the ability to defend themselves in court when states infringe their conscience rights, as is already happening in California and New York.


In this current political moment, there is pro-life leadership in both houses of Congress and in the White House. Indeed, the 2016 Republican Party Platform made multiple commitments to a pro-life ethic connected to their promises to reform American healthcare. Among them:

“We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare . . . We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.”

The pro-life community anticipates and expects any health care reform bill to be fully pro-life. As the ERLC works with the House and Senate through this effort to reform the American healthcare system, we commend House and Senate leadership for their efforts to deliver legislation that fully reflects a pro-life ethic.

By / Mar 30

For years ERLC has included in our legislative and policy agenda the objective of defunding Planned Parenthood—a goal shared by the GOP. Now that the Republicans control the White House and have majorities in both houses of Congress, it seemed like taxpayers might finally be able to stop funding America’s largest abortion provider.

Pro-lifers were excited to find in the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a bill to modify President Obama’s landmark healthcare legislation, a defunding measure. Yet only after that measure fail to many pro-lifers (like me) read the fine print: the AHCA would have only defunded Planned Parenthood for one year.

Why is it so difficult to keep taxpayer money from flowing to one of America’s most evil corporations? The answer is the Senate and the courts.

The primary reason that denying taxpayer funds to an organization that performs abortions is politically untenable is because one of the two major political parties in America fully supports taxpayer funding of abortions. The use of taxpayer monies to pay for any abortion in all nine months of pregnancy for any woman who wants one is literally a plank in the Democratic Party platform:

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way.

Notice the claim to “oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right” includes the “right” to taxpayer-funded abortions. When an entire political party clarifies that they will oppose any efforts to reduce taxpayer funding that goes to pay for abortions, we shouldn’t be surprised when members of that political party oppose an effort to eliminate taxpayer funding of the group that performs the most abortions in America.

This has certainly been the pattern in the past. When this issue came up in Congress in August 2015 the vote was 241-187 to defund Planned Parenthood. Only three Republicans voted against the measure and only two Democrats voted for it. The Senate defeated the same measure 46 to 53. It needed 60 votes to pass. Only two Democrats in the Senate—Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)—voted to cut off the funding and one Republican—Mark Kirk (R-Il.)—voted to keep funding. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted no, but only because that allows him to bring the bill back for a vote at a later time.)

Even though the House has enough votes to pass defunding and President Trump would sign it into law, a full-scale defunding bill currently can’t get through the Senate because of the ability of Democrats in to filibuster any legislation that can’t reach a veto-proof 67 votes.

That is why House Speaker Paul Ryan is proposing once again to defund through the budget reconciliation process, which would require only 51 votes in the Senate. "We think reconciliation is the tool, because that gets it in law. Reconciliation is the way to go," said Speaker Ryan in recent press conference. While this would be a positive step forward, it would only defund the abortion provider for one year.

Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to the federal level. Even efforts to defund Planned Parenthood at the state level have been rebuffed because of the courts.

In 2011, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-In.) signed a law to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any Medicaid funding from the state of Indiana. Soon after, lawmakers in Arizona, North Carolina, Kansas, Tennessee, and Texas also attempted to exclude funding of the abortion provider from their states’ pools of public insurance providers.

In response, the federal courts have blocked all of those efforts, ruling that states cannot deny women access to providers who meet the federal requirements to qualify for Medicaid. Planned Parenthood is classified as a “qualified medical provider” and is thus eligible for Medicaid reimbursement.

In 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry found a workaround: refuse to accept federal funding for the state’s women’s health programs. By choosing to fully fund the program at the state level, Texas is technically allowed to exclude Planned Parenthood.  But Planned Parenthood sued the state to prevent defunding and won an injunction. A U.S. District recently extended the injunction blocking Texas from removing Planned Parenthood from Medicaid contracts until the conclusion of the full trial of the abortion company’s lawsuit.

Last month, the Republican-controlled Iowa Senate voted on a similar measure. If the bill passes the state House and is signed into law it will likely be subject to a similar lawsuit as the one in Texas.

In the fact of our impending failure, pro-lifers shouldn’t grow discouraged. But we should be realistic. Currently, there isn’t much we can do to stop the flow of federal money to abortion providers. Until there are more pro-life members in the Senate, Planned Parenthood will continue to collect more than $60,000 an hour, every hour of every day of every year, from the American taxpayer.

By / Jan 28

Earlier this week, a grand jury in Harris County, Texas (the county where Houston is located) has indicted two of the undercover videographers associated with the Center for Medical Progress, the group of citizen journalists who filmed undercover meetings with Planned Parenthood (PP) discussing the sale of fetal body parts. The grand jury had also been asked to consider charges against the local PP franchise, but did not issue an indictment.

David Daleiden, 27, the director of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), has been indicted on second-degree felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs. Another CMP employee, Sandra Merritt, 62, was indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.

Here is what you should know to understand this case:

1. The felony charge was over a fake ID

When Daleiden visited the offices of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, a regional affiliate franchise of Planned Parenthood of America, he had to pass through a metal detector and show a picture ID. The claim is that Daleiden presented a phony California drivers license with the name of an alias, Robert Sarkis.

For this use of a fraudulent ID, Daleiden was charged with tampering with a governmental document. In Texas, this offense occurs when a person “makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent that it be taken as a genuine governmental record” and/or “makes, presents, or uses a governmental record with knowledge of its falsity.”

In most cases this offense in Texas is classified as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 (it does not include jail time).  However, if the intention of tampering with the document is “defraud or harm another” then the offense is a second-degree felony. An individual found guilty of a second-degree felony can be punished by imprisonment for any term of not more than 20 years or less than 2 years. In addition to imprisonment, they may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000.

In the Texas legal code, “harm” means anything reasonably regarded as loss, disadvantage, or injury, including harm to another person in whose welfare the person affected is interested. The presumption is that through his undercover investigation, Daleiden intended to cause either financial or reputation harm to Planned Parenthood.

2. The misdemeanor charge was for offering to purchase human organs

A few months after meeting with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Daleiden allegedly sent the affiliate a proposed contract offering to pay up to $1,600 per fetal tissue specimen.

The relevant state law is Texas Penal Code § 48.02: Prohibition of the Purchase and Sale of Human Organs:

(a) “Human organ” means the human kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas, eye, bone, skin, fetal tissue, or any other human organ or tissue, but does not include hair or blood, blood components (including plasma), blood derivatives, or blood reagents.

(b) A person commits an offense if he or she knowingly or intentionally offers to buy, offers to sell, acquires, receives, sells, or otherwise transfers any human organ for valuable consideration.

(c) It is an exception to the application of this section that the valuable consideration is: (1) a fee paid to a physician or to other medical personnel for services rendered in the usual course of medical practice or a fee paid for hospital or other clinical services; (2) reimbursement of legal or medical expenses incurred for the benefit of the ultimate receiver of the organ; or (3) reimbursement of expenses of travel, housing, and lost wages incurred by the donor of a human organ in connection with the donation of the organ.

(d) A violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor.

Under Texas law, a person acts knowingly when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or that the circumstances exist and is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result. In this case, the parties invovled would have to undertand that they were knowingly offering to buy or sell the fetal tissue and that money would be exchanged.

If Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast had agreed to accept the $1,600 per specimen, the franchise would have been been guilty of violating this statute since the price offered exceeds genuine fees for reimbursment.

But Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast reportedly never responded to the letter. This is why, as some people have wondered, there is a “buyer” but no “seller.” In Texas, it is a crime to offer to buy fetal tissue even if no seller takes you up on the offer. Because of this, the grand jury could have found probable cause that a crime was committed, even if Daleiden had no intention of actually giving Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast money for the tissue. (Because plantiffs do not present their case directly to the grand jury, the issue of intention would have to be addressed later, usually during the trial or while negotiating a plea bargain.)

[Note: One additional point to keep in mind is that the Harris County grand jury was only considering whether this specific Planned Parenthood affiliate (Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast) was guilty of committing the crime of selling fetal tissue. If other Planned Parenthood affiliates—whether in other states or other parts of Texas—made a profit from selling fetal tissue, it would have no bearing on this particular case. Grand jury investigations in those jurisdictions would have to consider brining charges against those PP franchises. Additionally, if Daleiden made similar offers to buy fetal tissue other Planned Parenthood affiliates, either in other parts of Texas or in other states that have a similar law against selling fetal tissue, he may be brought up on similar charges in those jurisdictions.]

3. Daleiden and Merritt have been indicted, but not yet convicted

It is important in this case to remember the difference between an indictment, which is handed down by a grand jury, and a conviction, which is determined by a trial or plea of guilt.

The grand jury is a jury of citizens that determines whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that a specific person or persons committed it. If the grand jury finds probable cause to exist, then it will return a written statement of the charges called an “indictment.” The indictment merely means there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the prosecutor can seek to prosecute the accused for the crime.

If the prosecuting attorney decides to move forward on the charges, then Daleiden and Merritt may be able to accept a plea agreement or request a jury of their peers try the case. A state trial would determine whether they would be convicted of a crime and what punishment they would face.

This distinction can affect how we apply both the rule of law and justice to this case. For instance, if the evidence supports the findings and the grand jury came to the right conclusion in determining that there was probable cause to believe that Daleiden and Merritt committed a crime in conducting their investigation, we may argue the indictment was the proper outcome, consistent with the rule of law.

We could also argue that justice requires us to consider the circumstances and motives of the defendants, and that would warrant a lenient sentence or even outright dismissal of the charges when the case moves to a plea bargain or trial.

See also: A conversation with the man behind the undercover Planned Parenthood videos