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Billion-dollar corporation gets corporate welfare from Bloomington City Council

By Scott Tibbs, June 20, 2008

On Wednesday night, the Bloomington City Council voted to give a taxpayer subsidy to Planned Parenthood for the tenth consecutive year. This time around, Planned Parenthood was requesting money for colposcopies, a test to find cervical cancer. As Lucas Weeks pointed out in public comment, the test itself is a great thing, will serve many people and will save lives. What many in the community object to is that the organization getting the handout from taxpayers operates an abortion clinic just a few blocks from City Hall.

As I pointed out in a letter to the City Council last month, Planned Parenthood's national branch recorded a profit of $37.7 million in the most recent fiscal year, according to its own web site. Overall, Planned Parenthood and all of its affiliates enjoyed an organization-wide profit of $114 million, having brought in over one billion dollars in revenue in the most recent fiscal year. Clearly, there is more than enough money floating around in the Planned Parenthood organization to give the Bloomington branch all the money it needs for the colposcopy program.

Of course, Planned Parenthood's own enabling attitude toward sexual promiscuity creates more risk for the very cancer that the colposcopies are meant to detect. After all, the human papillomavirus (HPV) is a major preventable cause of cervical cancer. Giving money to Planned Parenthood to fight against cervical cancer is kind of like giving a grant to the Ku Klux Klan to fight against racism.

But this grant was never about serving low-income women. This funding request was about nothing more than securing a political endorsement from city government. Planned Parenthood's true agenda was exposed several years ago, when a Democrat on the City Council offered to give PP $1,500 of his own money (covering their request for a grant) in exchange for withdrawing their application. Planned Parenthood refused. These cynical political games are an insult to all of the other organizations that apply for funding and actually need it.

The real story here is the grant applications that were denied. One of them was Middle Way House's request for help installing solar panels to help power their new facility on South Washington Street. This grant application seems to meet more than one goal: First, it helps a vital social service agency put more resources into helping battered women and rape survivors by reducing operating costs with sustainable energy. Second, it encourages the use of "green" energy, something that the environmentally conscious City Council should be supporting. Unlike Planned Parenthood, Middle Way House does not have the backing of a national organization and affiliates with a total revenue of over one billion dollars. Pro-abortion politics again took precedence over real need.

I was very disappointed that Chris Sturbaum did not recuse himself from the vote, as he has done the last four years. Sturbaum's wife is employed by Planned Parenthood. Sturbaum had no legal obligation to recuse himself because the grant does not benefit him or his wife financially, but he nonetheless took the ethical high ground from 2004-2007 by refusing to vote on a grant request from his wife's employer. That he failed to do so this year is certainly a step backward for full disclosure and ethical government.

Sturbaum complained that those opposing the funding for Planned Parenthood have shown a lack of respect for beliefs that conflict with theirs. The irony of this statement is amusing. It is not pro-life people who are taking other people's money and using it to fund an organization that they find morally reprehensible. Would Sturbaum say the same thing to people who spoke against a proposed subsidy to the Boy Scouts of America due to their exclusion of homosexuals from scout leadership? That the grant request was made by an organization that clearly does not need it while other applicants clearly do is further disrespect for pro-life constituents.

In public comment, anti-war activist David Keppel mentioned "separation of church and state" and called for a fact-based review of the grant applications. The City Council is clearly not interested in facts, because if they were the funds would not be going to Planned Parenthood. Furthermore, invoking "separation of church and state" is silly. Denying corporate welfare to abortionists does not endorse any religion or theological belief.

Some would argue that morality should not play into these decisions. That is silly. Government makes decisions every single day that have a moral component to them. A moral imperative to help the less fortunate, after all, is one of the reasons behind giving money to social service agencies in the first place. Refusing to fund an the Boy Scouts for reasons mentioned above would be a moral decision. The City Council's resolutions against the war in Iraq in 2003 and condemning U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba in 2001 also have a moral component to them.

Concerned citizens presented petitions with over 520 signatures opposing the handout to Bloomington's abortion clinic, and more than 30 people attended the City Council meeting to oppose corporate welfare to Planned Parenthood. These people stayed until nearly midnight until the City Council approved the funding package on an 8-1 vote. Once again, the City Council brushed aside the concerns of hundreds of residents who have appealed to city government to spend tax dollars in a more prudent and less offensive way. Can we change this in 2011?

Previous articles on the city's subsidies to Planned Parenthood:

June 1, 1999

July 9, 2001

May 05, 2002

May 14, 2002

June 18, 2002

June 18, 2002

June 30, 2002

May 28, 2003

June 19, 2003

April 30, 2004

May 07, 2004

May 08, 2004

May 13, 2004

May 23, 2004

June 19, 2004

July 08, 2004

May 20, 2005

May 26, 2005

June 16, 2005

June 01, 2006

June 19, 2006

June 22, 2006

March 1, 2007

May 15, 2007

June 12, 2007

May 01, 2007

June 18, 2007

May 05, 2008

May 14, 2008