Money Talks (And Squelches)

The church knows that when government helps pay the bills, it tries to call the shots. Now Planned Parenthood is making the same discovery.

“This clinic does not consider abortion an appropriate method of family planning and therefore does not counsel or refer for abortion.”

In a recent decision, Rust v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court let those words stand. They are part of government regulations of what federally funded family-planning clinics can and what they cannot do. What they can do, says Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan, is “provide preventive family-planning services,” the purpose of the program, called Title X.

Abortion advocates have characterized the decision as an assault on the First Amendment. Faye Wattleton, president of the Planned Parenthood Fedderation of America, which receives some $34 million under Title X, called the decision “an unimaginable blow to free speech.” Others said the regulations amounted to a “gag order” that forces clinics to mislead women.

The free-speech hyperbole hides Planned Parenthood’s real agenda: to promote abortion as just another method of birth control. And it obscures what the Court’s decision really means: that if the government hands out funds, it has the right to attach strings. Planned Parenthood cannot promote its ideology and continue to receive federal funds. It must choose.

If that dilemma sounds familiar, it is because religious institutions have faced it for years. Today, for example, a church-run daycare center must remove religious symbols if it receives federal funds. And note the case of the rabbi who used the word God in a brief invocation at a Rhode Island graduation. After a student sued, a federal judge ordered the school ...

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