By Marilyn Stewart, Regional Reporter
NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana Baptists and others are concerned that unless something changes, abortions will be carried out by Planned Parenthood for the first time in Louisiana next year as the organization moves to open an expanded facility in New Orleans.
SBC President Fred Luter, Jr. and Franklin Avenue Baptist Church have responded by joining with Nola Needs Peace, a coalition of concerned citizens that is taking a stand for life.
Planned Parenthood’s proposed 7,000 square-foot “New Orleans Health Center” will open on South Claiborne Avenue, at the edge of one of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods in the heart of New Orleans.
Luter said his reasons for joining with Nola Needs Peace, an initiative of the Louisiana Right to Life, are not political.
“This is about saving lives,” Luter said. “This is not a political issue. This is a biblical issue. I’m concerned as a pastor and a believer.”
Nola Needs Peace will hold a city-wide prayer meeting and community gathering May 16 at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, where Luter is pastor. A press conference follows on May 20 at the Planned Parenthood property site.
The Nola Needs Peace campaign comes amidst President Obama’s canceled appearance as keynote speaker at the recent Washington D. C. Planned Parenthood gala due to pushback from pro-life advocates and the grisly trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor charged with infanticide.
Last year, Luter was the keynote speaker on the steps of the state capitol in the Louisiana Life March, sponsored by the Louisiana Right to Life.
An estimated 55 million abortions have been performed in the United States since Roe V. Wade in 1973, peaking in the early 1990s.
Nola Needs Peace reports that 79 percent of Planned Parenthood’s abortion facilities are located near minority neighborhoods.
“Abortion is wrong and this is an attack upon minorities,” said Dennis Watson, pastor of Celebration Church of Metairie.
Nola Needs Peace is asking Louisianans to stand with them by signing the petition atwww.NolaNeedsPeace.com. Statistics and information on abortion are available at the website. “Nola” is an abbreviation for New Orleans, Louisiana.
“Planned Parenthood performs abortions on 9 out of 10 pregnant women that walk through their doors,” said Benjamin Clapper, executive director of the Louisiana Right to Life. “They are an abortion industry. They don’t take us toward peace; they take us away from peace.”
The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported April 23 that Melissa Flourney, Louisiana state director of Planned Parenthood, confirmed that abortions would be performed at the New Orleans center for the first time in Planned Parenthood’s 30-year history in Louisiana.
Clapper said that the current Planned Parenthood facility on New Orleans’ Magazine Street refers pregnant women to two unrelated abortion facilities in the city.
Phone calls to Planned Parenthood of New Orleans were not returned.
In 2011, Planned Parenthood reported a record-high 333,964 abortions nationwide. The Orleans Parish population that year was under 361,000.
Planned Parenthood statistics, as collated by the Louisiana Right to Life from Planned Parenthood reports and testimony, show that abortion accounts for 92 percent of its services. Since 2005, Planned Parenthood’s contraceptives services have dropped 17 percent and cancer prevention services dropped 35 percent, but abortion services increased by 26 percent. For every 145 abortions, Planned Parenthood provides one adoption referral.
Planned Parenthood received $542 million in taxpayer funding in 2011, which was 45 percent of its annual revenue.
Numerous New Orleans healthcare entities provide the same healthcare services, such as free medical tests and ultrasounds, as Planned Parenthood.
“What’s amazing to me is that as abortions in the United States have gone down, Planned Parenthood abortions have gone up,” Watson said.
The Mobile Pregnancy Care Center, a ministry of the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home, provides free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds for walk-in clients monthly in the Greater New Orleans area.
Michelle Black, director of the Pro-Life Services of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of New Orleans, said that when her agency heard of the LBCH unit, they asked to tour. Black said that her communication with Perry Hancock, LBCH director, and the mobile unit’s staff helped her agency as they designed their own mobile pregnancy care unit that will be available this fall.
When the LBCH Mobile Pregnancy Care Center updated its ultrasound machine recently, it donated its still-usable unit to Catholic Charities’ new mobile pregnancy care unit.
“Our hope is to reach underserved areas and to go where the abortion centers are,” Black said.
Watson said abortion is an issue that affects churches and that he’s seen women struggle with grief and guilt over an abortion long after coming to faith in Christ.
“It eats at me. I didn’t know then that it was wrong, but it is, said one Southern Baptist in New Orleans, who asked that her name not be used. She said she had an abortion more than 25 years ago, and added. “It feels like a part of me was ripped out.”