By Ben Johnson
In city governments across the United States, officials are seeking to use federal COVID-19 funds intended to preserve life to fund abortion and benefit the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, an outcome pro-life leaders call a “tragic” and foreseeable misuse of funds.
Earlier this month, Toledo’s city council proposed ordinance 530-21, which would spend $100,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to pay for Ohio women to travel out of state to obtain an abortion. The funds would go to the Agnes Reynolds Jackson Fund, one of the nation’s network of abortion funds, which defer but do not cover the full price of an abortion — a decision that has outraged state pro-life leaders.
Meanwhile the city of Rochester, New York, has selected Planned Parenthood of Central and Western NY as one of 20 members of its “Rochester Peace Collective,” which will split $5 million in American Rescue Plan funding. Mayor Malik Evans, a Democrat, said the organizations deserve these “front-end investments,” because have the ability “to intervene in the lives of people who maybe have been impacted by violence.” The Toledo ordinance also says its terms are “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety and property.”
Yet pro-life advocates say abortion is violence, not health care. “It is tragic to see the abortion industry once again exploiting a health crisis as a way to line their pockets with taxpayer funding,” Connor Semelsberger, director of federal affairs at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand.
“Using funds allocated for COVID recovery to enable the taking of innocent lives and the harming of mothers and their children is both unjust and immoral,” said Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel E. Thomas. “It is our responsibility as faithful servants of God to spearhead legislation to make it easier for mothers and fathers to flourish economically so they can provide a loving and thriving home for their families.” The Ohio-based Center for Christian Virtue, a state affiliate of FRC, set up a webpage enabling Ohioans to contact Toledo City Council members and politely voice their opposition. “It’s hard to imagine a more gross abuse of taxpayer dollars,” said CCV President Aaron Baer. He may find a receptive audience: Council member Vanice Williams, who supports abortion-on-demand, opposes the measure, because “we really need to hone in on what we spend these ARPA dollars on.”
Similarly, in Rochester, pro-family advocates oppose the $225,000 grant for Planned Parenthood’s sex education program, as it uses taxpayer dollars to link minors to Planned Parenthood’s website.
These cities, which have not yet acted, are far from alone in using federal health care funds to promote abortion. In July St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, a Democrat, signed a bill using $1 million of federal COVID relief funds to pay for abortion travel, or childcare, for women seeking to have an abortion — something she said fulfilled her campaign promises and dovetailed with her political philosophy. “I said I would fight like hell to make sure St. Louisans can access the reproductive health care they need,” she vowed. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmidt, a Republican, filed a lawsuit against the measure immediately.
“Atlanta; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Fresno, Calif.; Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn.; New York City; and Seattle directed state or municipal funding to abortion access. Cuyahoga County, Ohio; and St. Louis, Mo., directed funding from the American Rescue Protection Act to abortion access,” reported the far-Left Nation magazine.
Pro-life advocates say the outcome was anything but a surprise. “As the American Rescue Plan Act was being assembled Family Research Council and many other groups warned that” the ARPA funding would underwrite elective abortions “unless the bill clearly defines what healthcare funding can and cannot be used for, or has explicate language to prevent it from subsidizing abortion.”
“The American Rescue Plan Act lacks key abortion funding restrictions,” Semelsberger warned FRC readers at the time. “This is government irresponsibility at its worst,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
Upon passage of the $1.9 trillion plan — which took place in March 2021, as COVID had already begun to recede and the economy was rebounding — Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson hailed President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Democratic congressional leaders as “health care champions” for preserving abortion funding in the American Rescue Plan.
“As Roe becomes a fainting memory it is important to remember that there is no longer a federal right to an abortion as established by our courts and therefore should not be subsidized on the taxpayer’s dime,” Semelsberger told TWS.