The Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans is taking a stand against a new Planned Parenthood clinic, pledging not do business with any individual or business participating in the construction or opening of the facility.
"The archdiocese, including its churches, schools, apartments for the elderly, and nursing homes," will not "enter into business relationships with any person or organization that participates in actions that are essential to making this abortion facility a reality," Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond wrote in a Feb. 1 open letter published in the Catholic newspaper The Clarion-Herald.
"This policy applies to all businesses regardless of religious affiliation or non-affiliation," Archbishop Aymond wrote, further stating that "affiliation or support of Planned Parenthood by Catholics is a matter of serious scandal."
The action appears to be a new tactic for a Catholic archdiocese.
"I do not know for sure, but it involves what we call 'material cooperation with evil' and my sense is that it is somewhat unique because I would have heard about others before," Father James Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College, told Newsmax.
The letter from Archbishop Aymond was a response to the decision on Dec. 5 by the City of New Orleans to approve Planned Parenthood's building permit, and an answer to questions raised by Catholics about the moral implications of working with entities that participate in abortion-related activities.
"We have received some questions concerning Catholic doctrine," Archbishop Aymond told Newsmax. "While some can disconnect faith from their actions, can a Christian really say they are supporting life if they are in any way participating in the building of a Planned Parenthood facility?
"If they do, they are sharing in the work [performing abortions] that will be done in the future.
"We are not doing a boycott. We feel this is a way to raise consciousness among the community. Nor is it a threat. We are simply telling people and businesses openly and honestly that we would not be able to do business with them in the future."
It is not clear whether other archdioceses will follow New Orleans and take similar actions. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, media relations director for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Newsmax it is the policy of the USCCB not to comment on local matters.
According to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute
, 12,210 abortions were performed in Louisiana in 2011, a rate of 13.1 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. The rate decreased 19 percent from 2008, when it was 16.1 per 1,000.
Although there are other Planned Parenthood clinics in the state, the new location in New Orleans would be the first that has stated it would perform abortions.
"For nearly 30 years, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has provided high-quality healthcare to tens of thousands of Louisiana women and men. Planned Parenthood is committed to ensuring that women across this state get the healthcare they need to stay healthy and the information to make responsible health decisions," Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla said in a statement.
"Planned Parenthood will continue to do everything possible to ensure that women and men in Louisiana have access to the full range of reproductive healthcare they need," Tafolla said.
Representatives from Planned Parenthood did not respond to calls for comment.
"As Christians and Catholics, we are opposed to abortion, but more importantly, we are for life from conception to natural death and that is the context in which we believe that a Planned Parenthood facility is not helpful to building a culture of life in the city," Archbishop Aymond told Newsmax.
Aymond said he has not heard from pro-choice groups, but welcomes an "open dialogue" on the issue.
"As an archdiocese, an institution in the private sector, we have the right to do business with who we wish and I do believe that we are simply exercising our right to do business with people of integrity and who uphold the basic Christian values," Archbishop Aymond said, adding that the Catholic institutions in his archdiocese also would not do business with those who support the death penalty.
"In fact, pharmaceutical companies in recent years have made the decision to stop manufacturing drugs used to carry out executions. For example, in 2011 the pharmaceutical company Hospira stopped manufacturing
sodium thiopental, the drug used in many executions," the archbishop said.
"Pharmaceutical companies are not producing these drugs used in states that have the death penalty and they have the right to do that, just as we have the right to make similar decisions. We are not in business to condemn anyone. We are in business to live out our Christian principles, which include opposition to abortion and to protect all life," Aymond added.
Fr. Bretzke likens the archdiocese's action to CVS taking a "principled stand and saying, 'We are a drug store designed to improve people's health, so why are we selling something that is detrimental to an individual's health.'" CVS recently announced it was ending the sales of tobacco products.
"It is what we in the trade call 'material cooperation' with evil. For example, if a contractor knows he is building a poison gas plant, but he is not actually producing the poison gas, he is still giving material cooperation with that evil," Fr. Bretzke said.
"Or when a business must decide whether it wants to hire a company with a bad workers-rights record in the Third World. Many businesses made these choices during the 1980s over doing business with South Africa," he said.
In addition to opposition from the archdiocese, the Planned Parenthood facility has faced challenges resulting from state regulations proposed in November.
Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration issued rules that would require a pregnant woman to obtain a blood test 30 days prior to seeking an abortion, and would make changes to building requirements for new and renovated clinics.
However, the Department of Health and Hospitals
withdrew the rules in early February after concerns were raised that the regulatory language left the state vulnerable to a legal challenge.
"We withdrew the rules in order to correct the language governing the licensure of outpatient abortion facilities before proceeding," wrote Olivia Watkins, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Hospitals, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune
. "We intend to issue a new set of proposed rules with a notice of intent in the future for public comment."
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