Pence Amendment: UP responds

By The Beacon | March 2, 2011 9:00pm

The University community debates federal funding for Planned Parenthood

Jeffrey Gauthier (The Beacon)

By Elizabeth Vogel, Staff Writer --

A congressional proposal to defund Planned Parenthood and any other organizations that perform abortions has evoked strong emotions within two UP student groups on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Since Feb. 18, when the House of Representatives passed the Pence Amendment, it has been the subject of passionate discussion within Voice for Life and the Feminist Discussion Group.

Under the Pence Amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., Planned Parenthood would lose approximately $75 million in federal funding. Because current law already prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion, the Pence Amendment would take away funds used for other services, including birth control, STD tests and other reproductive health services for low-income women provided under Title X.

Students in the Feminist Discussion Group strongly oppose the amendment because they see it as an assault on women's health care.

"The amendment takes away from basic health care needs," senior Sasha Tenzin, co-president of the Feminist Discussion Group, said.

Members of Voice for Life support the amendment.

"The point of the amendment, and the reason we support it, is to keep those morally opposed to abortion from having to financially support them or the businesses that provide them through tax dollars," junior Erin Flotte, vice president of Voice for Life, said.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood argue cutting federal funds puts the health care of millions in jeopardy.

"Just looking at the statistics: 3 million people in the U.S. alone need these services," sophomore Feminist Discussion Group member Lissy Richards said. "That is a lot of people who may not have an agency to turn to if Planned Parenthood loses funding."

Flotte says Voice for Life is not interested in shutting down Planned Parenthood.

"We recognize that Planned Parenthood offers many positive medical services," she said. "The point of this amendment is not to put Planned Parenthood out of business, nor will Planned Parenthood go out of business if the amendment is passed."

Richards attended a rally to support Planned Parenthood at its regional service center on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Northeast Beech Street on Feb. 21.

"There was a phenomenal atmosphere of support for Planned Parenthood, women's health care and social justice. I am proud that I was a part of such an amazing rally for change and social awareness," she said.

Harold Burke-Sivers, who is a Catholic deacon as well as UP's director of Public-Safety, supports the Pence Amendment and frequently speaks out publicly against abortion.

"I don't think any government money should go to Planned Parenthood," he said.

On Jan. 11, Burke-Sivers was the featured speaker at a campus event sponsored by Voice for Life. The title of his talk was "The Legacy of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood): The Death of the Black Family One Child at a Time."

According to Associate Professor of philosophy and adviser to the Feminist Discussion Group, Jeffrey Gauthier, taking away Planned Parenthood's funding is not the way to stop abortion.

"One of my main concerns is that to cut off Planned Parenthood is a short-sighted goal if your goal is to reduce the number of abortions," Gauthier said.

Burke-Sivers disagrees.

"It makes no sense for us to give them government money," Burke-Sivers said.

Burke-Sivers and other supporters of the Pence Amendment in the Portland area have organized a prayer event this Saturday to kick-off a series of vigils called "40 Days for Life." Participants will gather outside the Planned Parenthood facility on MLK Boulevard at noon, and Burke-Sivers is one of the speakers.

Planned Parenthood supporters are circulating an online "Open Letter to Congress" calling the Pence Amendment "the most dangerous legislative assault in our history."

While the Democratically-controlled Senate is not expected to support the defunding proposal, the passionate responses it has evoked on both sides are expected to continue to fuel political debate.

(The Beacon)

Erin Flotte (The Beacon)

Lissy Richards (The Beacon)

Sasha Tenzin (The Beacon)