Many pro-life advocates are renewing their call to legislators to remove all state funding to Planned Parenthood clinics after they discovered the organization's Indiana affiliate was selling holiday gift certificates that could be redeemed for health services, including abortion.
The Planned Parenthood of Indiana, which has 35 clinics across the state, began offering the gift certificates last month. The certificates, sold in increments of $25, can be used toward any of the clinics' health services, ranging from screenings, birth control to abortion.
Chrystal Struben-Hall with Planned Parenthood of Indiana said the certificates are in response to "economic woes" that cause women to place other priorities before their health.
But pro-life advocates believe that an ailing economy should mean less funds for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which they say are "profiting from death." The organization received 300 million federal dollars last year.
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, is asking supporters to contact Indiana House Majority Leader Russ Stillwell and ask him to defund Planned Parenthood in Indiana.
"The ailing economy has forced families and governments to tighten their fiscal belts," said Perkins in an e-mail sent Thursday to supporters, "and the current financial crisis should cause us to ask whether a controversial billion dollar corporation like Planned Parenthood should get state tax funds."
Several pro-life and Christian organizations have expressed outrage over the gift certificates, saying it is offensive for Planned Parenthood to promote "death" at a time when many are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
"To give someone a gift card from the nation's largest abortion business is to give death for Christmas," Dr. Alveda King, pastoral associate of Priests for Life and niece of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said in a written statement.
She said that Planned Parenthood should call the vouchers "King Herod certificates" after the Roman ruler who slaughtered the Israelite babies in his vain attempt to kill the baby Jesus.
"Congress gave Planned Parenthood $300 million last year and now a chapter of this group is defiling the celebration of our Savior's birth," said Dr. King. "As one of America's taxpayers, I want my money back."
The organization has described the certificates as an "unusual, yet practical gift" but has maintained that the program was created with uninsured and low-income women in mind.
A recent report by Guttmacher Institute, a research organization associated with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, however, found that women obtaining abortions are more likely to be poor or low-income. The latest data on abortion incidents collected by the same research group showed that 11,150 women obtained abortions in Indiana in 2005.
"If Planned Parenthood really cared about the needy, they would offer their services at no cost, like the dozens of pro-life pregnancy resource centers statewide," suggested Indiana Right to Life president Mike Fitcher to Christian Broadcasting Network News.
Meanwhile, pro-life groups are encouraging people to consider a Christmas donation to organizations that promote life instead of death.
Indiana Right to Life is asking residents to donate to a pro-life center instead of purchasing gift certificates.
The Chicago-based Pro-Action Life League is asking for donations to a non-profit service called Option Line (1-800-395-HELP), a 24/7 hotline that connects callers to local resource centers that can help manage a crisis pregnancy or deal with the aftermath of abortion.
"After the national outrage of Planned Parenthood's 'death' certificates that could be used for abortions, we wanted to let people know there are much better places to send their money to assist women who need help dealing with an unplanned pregnancy," said Eric Scheidler, communications director for the Pro-Life Action League.
According to PLAL, a donation of $42 is enough to keep Option Line open and taking calls for half an hour — helping at least 14 people in need, or as many as 1,000 women if 100 people donate. To encourage donations to the hotline, the group will give away copies of the book What Mary and Joseph Knew About Parenting to the first 100 donors who give $42 or more between now and Dec. 25.
The gift certificate offer is not the first time Planned Parenthood has run into controversy over a holiday promotion. In 2002, the organization sold pro-abortion "Choice on Earth" Christmas cards that put a twist on the traditional "Peace on Earth" Christmas greeting.
The Indiana branch of Planned Parenthood also came under scrutiny this week after the release of a secretly-recorded video that showed a Bloomington clinic employee breaking with the organization's policies and giving abortion advice to a girl who identified herself as being 13 years old. The "patient," who was actually 20-year-old Lilia Rose, a history major student at the University of California Los Angeles, claims that the nurse in the video showed her a form that would allow her to get an abortion in Illinois without parental consent. PPIN has suspended the employee pending further investigation of the video.