Op-Ed: Religious People Must Oppose Attacks on Planned Parenthood

Conservatives balk when we say they are waging a war on women. Yet, the way in which conservatives attack and degrade women leaves little doubt that something is dreadfully wrong. The latest attack comes from Senator Ted Cruz who called on evangelical pastors to preach against Planned Parenthood. He even called upon them to support a government shutdown should attempts to defund the health care provider fail.

My work as a pastor and HIV/AIDS educator includes important conversations in communities of color about practicing safer sex and testing for HIV and other STDs. I know firsthand that the services provided by Planned Parenthood are life-saving. I also know that our communities are looking for greater access to health care, not less.

Conservatives like Cruz say their beef with Planned Parenthood stems from the abortion care it provides. But abortion accounts for only three percent of Planned Parenthood’s services. So there must be more to the story.

Amos was the prophetic voice in the Hebrew Bible that called out the social injustice and religious arrogance of those in power. Known as the prophet of righteousness, he critiqued the elite for using religious traditions and the law to place economic and political power within the hands of a privileged few. Today’s war on women requires a prophetic response like that of Amos.

Targeting Planned Parenthood is one part of conservatives’ broader agenda to limit the health care options of low-income people. They’d like to eradicate access to safe abortion, and have also sought to severely limit access to birth control. Around the country, they’ve failed to extend Medicaid benefits to low-income people, and have voted in Washington dozens of times to repeal President Obama’s health care law.

More than that, though, the on-going attacks on women have a much more sinister motive. They are designed to mobilize fear and hate for electoral purposes; to mobilize an aggrieved base of angry, primarily white voters to eradicate the freedoms and liberties of women, people of color, immigrants, the LBGTQ community, and poor people.

Conservatives cannot be allowed to capitalize on economic insecurities and tensions around race and gender in order to scapegoat groups like Planned Parenthood. The faith community must offer our prophetic voice to shed light on the conservative movement’s strategy.

Liberal faith voices must put forth our theologies of reproductive justice and speak out against social injustice and religious arrogance. We must speak loudly for love, compassion, justice, and the liberation of all those who suffer myriad forms of oppression. We must serve as faithful witnesses of attempts to stand in the way of God’s people walking in the fullness of their reproductive and sexual liberation and wholeness. We must shed light upon the deceptive use of our legal processes to engage in forms of reproductive and sexual oppression.

We must be ever-mindful of deceitful tactics designed to advance a conservative, anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-immigrant, anti-LBGTQ, and anti-people of color agenda. They robe themselves in a false sense of concern. Authentic righteousness is grounded in love and compassion, and stands firmly in the prophetic space of liberation. Righteousness is grounded in promoting a quality of life that respects and seeks to be in community with others.

Amos 5:24 says, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Let those of us who are committed to justice stand firmly in the space of ensuring that the waters of justice run unfiltered throughout the lives of all people. Let us work fervently to keep the stream of righteousness free from the tainted residue of hatred and misogyny that attempts to pollute it.