News Articles

CULTURE DIGEST: Original abortion clinic targeted by 40 Days for Life to close

NASHVILLE (BP) — The Texas abortion clinic where 40 Days for Life was born will be shut down.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast announced July 18 it will close in August its abortion center in Bryan, which is near the campus of Texas A&M and its more than 50,000 students.

The Planned Parenthood facility was the site in 2004 of the first campaign by 40 Days for Life, which has since expanded to an international movement. It also was the clinic directed by Abby Johnson, who suddenly left the facility in 2009 and became a pro-life advocate.

In a written statement, Shawn Carney, campaign director for 40 Days, called the closing a “huge victory for the entire pro-life movement! Peaceful and prayerful local opposition to abortion is ending abortion from the grassroots up.”

Johnson said in a statement, “This is what grace truly looks like. Knowing that the former abortion clinic I once ran is now closing is the biggest personal victory of my life. From running that facility, to then advocating for its closure, and now celebrating that dream … it shows that my life has indeed come full circle.”

PPGC also announced it would shut down its centers in Huntsville and Lufkin. Unlike the clinic in Bryan, those facilities do not perform abortions. PPGC has clinics in southeast Texas and southern Louisiana.

Melaney Linton, PPGC’s president, said the closings occurred because of state budget cuts and Texas’ removal of Planned Parenthood from its Women’s Health Program.

Less than a week after PPGC announced the clinic closings, the Texas attorney general announced PPGC had agreed to pay $1.4 million to settle a Medicaid fraud case.

Planned Parenthood affiliates reported performing a record 333,964 abortions during 2010-11, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Planned Parenthood also established a record for funds received from federal, state and local governments — $542.4 million in grants and reimbursements during the latest fiscal year.

The semi-annual outreaches of 40 Days for Life began nationwide in 2007 and have moved to other countries. The campaigns focus on peaceful, pro-life prayer vigils outside abortion clinics and have resulted in reports of more than 7,500 unborn babies spared since they began nationally.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD SETTLES FRAUD CASE FOR $1.4 MILLION — Planned Parenthood has agreed to pay $1.4 million to settle a Medicaid fraud case in Texas.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast settled after an investigation by the Texas government showed it fraudulently overbilled the Medicaid program, state Attorney General Greg Abbott announced July 24.

A whistleblower-prompted investigation by Abbott’s office and other state officials showed the Planned Parenthood affiliate “improperly billed the Texas Medicaid program for products and services that were never actually rendered, not medically necessary, and were not covered by the Medicaid program — and were therefore not eligible for reimbursement,” the attorney general’s office said in a news release.

“For example, state investigators determined that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast falsified material information in patients’ medical records in order to support fraudulent reimbursement claims to the Medicaid program.”

Abbott said in a statement reported by The Texas Tribune, “Texas’ ability to help the poor is hampered by actions like those Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast was accused of committing. Actions like this harm the very people who need access to health care.”

Rochelle Tafolla, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, described the charges against the abortion chain as “baseless.” According to The Tribune, she said Planned Parenthood is “ending this case as a practical matter.”

Alliance Defending Freedom, which has charged Planned Parenthood with misusing millions of dollars in government funds in a report to Congress, said the settlement shows the affiliate “has admitted its fraud.”

“Americans deserve to know if their hard-earned tax money is being funneled to groups that are misusing it…,” ADF senior counsel Michael Norton said. “This is merely the tip of the iceberg.”

JUDGE BLOCKS N.D. PRO-LIFE HEARTBEAT LAW — A federal judge has blocked enforcement of a North Dakota ban on abortion when a heartbeat can be detected in the baby, which could be as early as six weeks gestation.

The law, signed in March by Gov. Jack Dalrymple, is the earliest prohibition in the country on abortion.

In a July 22 order, Judge Daniel Hovland granted a preliminary injunction that prevents the law from taking effect Aug. 1. Hovland described the ban as “clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law.”

The U.S. Supreme Court “has unequivocally said that no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” he wrote, according to The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Viability often is set at 22 to 24 weeks gestation.

Republican Rep. Bette Grande, the bill’s sponsor, said she was not surprised at the injunction.

“But I am surprised we have people that don’t think a beating heart is important,” she said, according to The Forum. “Our society has seen North Dakota as a pro-life state that has stated its compelling interest is in the life of the child.”

R.I.’s CHAFEE VETOES ‘CHOOSE LIFE’ PLATES — Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee vetoed July 16 a bill that would have made available “Choose Life” license plates.

Purchases of the pro-life specialty plates would have helped benefit CareNet Pregnancy Center of Rhode Island, an evangelical Christian ministry.

In his veto message, Chafee said Rhode Island’s distribution of funds raised by sale of the plates “would violate the separation of church and state.”

A state pro-life leader said the veto demonstrated Chafee’s “extremism on abortion.”

The veto was “grossly out-of-step with other New England Democrats,” said Barth Bracy, executive director of the Rhode Island Right to Life Committee, according to the Providence Journal.

Chafee, a former U.S. senator, served in the past on the board of NARAL Pro-choice America, a leading abortion rights organization.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).