Democratic congressional negotiators say Republicans are blocking agreement on a measure to fund the federal government because they want to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
The faith leaders say the federal budget debate isn't about abortion funding, since federal law -- known as the Hyde Amendment -- bars any government money from going toward abortion services.
"I am a pro-life pastor, and I know that the concerns regarding Planned Parenthood are misguided. It is clearly understood that there is no federal funding for abortion -- end of discussion," the Rev. Derrick Harkins, pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, said in a statement Friday.
"What we're really talking about is this: Planned Parenthood provides critical services for at-risk pregnancies and prenatal care, often in underserved communities. We should have robust debate about social issues, but we can't let that debate derail our economy by forcing a government shutdown that hurts hardworking families."
The religious leaders point out Planned Parenthood women's health centers provide birth control information, cancer screening, testing, prenatal care and infertility issues.
"I understand that people of good will can differ over abortion, but I find it incomprehensible that the American government could shut down -- not over major fiscal issues -- but over funding for the very preventive services for women that most directly help to reduce abortion," Sarah Brown, chief executive officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said.
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