Archive of February 28, 2008

Tickets for U.S. Papal Masses in high demand

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - The two archdioceses hosting public papal Masses during Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming U.S. visit have received more than 200,000 ticket requests from Catholics around the nation, USA Today reports.

There are about twice as many ticket requests as there are seats available.

Only 46,000 seats are available for the Mass at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., while 57,000 will be available at Yankees Stadium in New York City. 

On Friday dioceses will be notified of the exact number of tickets they will have to distribute, but people are already pursuing tickets. 

After posting on its website a notice about acquiring tickets, the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s website shut down for an hour.

In Dallas, more than 300 pastors wrote letters attesting to parishioners’ requests for seats.  Two of the diocese’s 20 seats at the New York Mass will go to a woman who wrote that her sick daughter would benefit from attending a Mass with the Pope.  "People are very excited about their faith and about coming together as a family with the Holy Father," said Annette Gonzales Taylor, according to the Washington Post.

In both cities most of the tickets will be distributed to local parishes and surrounding dioceses.  For the Washington Mass, 9,990 will be divided among the nearby states, with the Diocese of Arlington receiving 6,000.  The numbers of tickets distributed to parishes in Washington will be based on parish Mass attendance size and whether it has a school or a significant religious education program.  Parish priests will decide how to distribute such tickets.

Additionally, 14,000 other tickets for the Washington Mass will be distributed around the country.

Archdiocese of New York spokesman Joseph Zwilling said security would be tight at the venues on the New York leg of the Pope’s trip.  Attendees will use bar-coded tickets and be required to show government identification. Security officials will also conduct searches of some people.

Both security concerns and religious principle will also forbid scalping the tickets, which are distributed to the ticket holders at no cost.  “We don’t charge people to come to Mass,” Zwilling said.

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Cardinal Pell’s home to host Pope for World Youth Day

Sydney, Australia, Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - During his July Australian visit for World Youth Day 2008, Pope Benedict XVI will stay in the residence of Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, The Age reports.

The cardinal’s residence is next to St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Some details of Pope Benedict’s stay in Sydney were announced on Wednesday by New South Wales Deputy Premier John Watkins.

During his four-day visit, the Pope will likely visit other sites around Sydney such as the Opera House, Centennial Park, the Sydney open space called the Domain, and the Barangaroo site in East Darling Harbor.

A spokesman for World Youth Day said the Pope was expected to arrive at Barangaroo by boat for his official welcome.   However, the spokesman also said the programs and arrangement for the event would not be finalized until shortly before the week-long event.

Pope Benedict will celebrate a closing Mass on July 20 for an anticipated 500,000 pilgrims at Randwick Racecourse. 

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Obama pledged to Planned Parenthood: “I will not yield” to pro-life concerns

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - On Wednesday a full transcript of Democrat presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama’s July 2007 speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in which he vigorously defended legalized abortion became available. 

In the July 17 speech, Obama attacked the Supreme Court decision that upheld the federal partial-birth abortion ban and the nomination of Supreme Court justices who favor overturning Roe v. Wade.  In the speech the senator said, "There will always be people, many of goodwill, who do not share my view on the issue of choice. On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield."

Obama based his speech around the question, “What kind of America will our daughters grow up in?” 

He specifically argued against the Supreme Court decision Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld restrictions on partial-birth abortion. 

“For the first time in Gonzales versus Carhart,” Obama said, “the Supreme Court held—upheld a federal ban on abortions with criminal penalties for doctors. For the first time, the Court’s endorsed an abortion restriction without an exception for women’s health. The decision presumed that the health of women is best protected by the Court—not by doctors and not by the woman herself. That presumption is wrong.”

He warned abortion supporters that the partial-birth abortion ban should not be construed as an isolated effort, saying it was wrong to presume the law was “not part of a concerted effort to roll back the hard-won rights of American women.”

Obama said the decision had encouraged an Alabama lawmaker to introduce a measure to ban all abortions. “With one more vacancy on the Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a woman’s fundamental right to choose for the first time since Roe versus Wade and that is what is at stake in this election,” Obama claimed.

The senator said he had a long tradition of support for legalized abortion, citing his efforts in the Illinois State Senate and his classes as a law professor.  “I have worked on these issues for decades now,” he said.  “I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law. Not simply as a case about privacy but as part of the broader struggle for women’s equality.”

The dissent of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in Gonzales v. Carhart won praise from Obama while Justice Anthony Kennedy, who spoke for the majority, was held up for ridicule.
“The only thing more disturbing than the decision was the rationale of the majority. Without any hard evidence, Justice Kennedy proclaimed, ‘It is self-evident that a woman would regret her choice.’ He cited medical uncertainty about the need to protect the health of pregnant women. Even though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found no such uncertainty. Justice Kennedy knows many things, my understanding is he does not know how to be a doctor,” Obama said.

On the topic of judicial appointments, Obama reaffirmed his opposition to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito, who are believed to be hostile to the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Obama also depicted his opponents as divisive, saying, “They want us to believe that there’s nothing that unites us as Americans—there’s only what divides us. They’ll seek out the narrowest and most divisive ground.”

Senator Obama said he was “absolutely convinced that culture wars are so nineties,” saying it was “time to turn the page.” 

“We’re tired about arguing about the same ole’ stuff,” he continued.  And I am convinced we can win that argument. If the argument is narrow, then oftentimes we lose.”

He said abortion advocates should emphasize their support for women to have the “same chances” as men.

Laura Echevarria, the political writer and former National Right to Life Committee spokeswoman who transcribed the July speech, criticized Obama’s remarks. 

"Many Americans see Barack Obama as a kind and compassionate candidate," she said. "However, Mr. Obama's compassion does not extend to our most vulnerable members of society- -unborn children."

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Act of reparation to be held for profanation of Cathedral in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - This Friday a group of Catholics in Argentina will hold an act of reparation for the profanation of the Cathedral of Buenos Aires carried out by the Mothers of the May Square--an association of women whose sons and daughters went missing during the military dictatorship of 1976-1983—and a group of vandals.

Organizers said the ceremony would include the recitation of the rosary in an atmosphere of “silence and profound prayer that God may forgive our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”  “If the doors of the Cathedral are closed, we will pray the rosary in the atrium, mindful that God is present there too, listening to us with the heart of a Father.  If they are open, we will pray before the Blessed Sacrament,” they said.

They called on those who plan to attend not to respond to the possibility that protestors might show up, “since to do so is to fall into their plans to disturb an act of piety with hatred, which leads to nothing good.”

Last January 29, six women from the Mothers of the May Square, led by their president Hebe de Bonafini, occupied the Cathedral to fast in protest of the lack of state funding for housing in Buenos Aires.  Bonafini told reporters that since the bathrooms of the Cathedral were closed, the women relieved themselves on the floor behind the main altar. 

Bonafini is renowned for her anti-Catholicism. On one occasion she publicly expressed her desire for the death of John Paul II, and after he died, she said the Pontiff would “go to hell.”  She has also praised the September 11 attacks on the United States.

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Plan to support international moratorium on abortion to be presented in Madrid

Madrid, Spain, Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - On March 3 at the University of San Pablo in Madrid, the director of the Italian daily Il Folglio, Guliano Ferrara, will unveil a plan to achieve an international moratorium on abortion, similar to the moratorium on the death penalty reached at the United Nations at the beginning of the year.

Ferrara’s initiative calls on governments to “scrupulously respect” human rights, beginning with the inviolable right to life.  He proposes that the article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that affirms the right to life of every person be amended to include that that right should be respected “from conception to natural death.”

The moratorium calls on “representatives of governments to express their opinion in support of a significant amendment of the text of the Declaration.” 

A number of renowned scholars and leaders from around the world have voiced their support for Ferrara’s initiative.

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Cardinal Bertone confirms social Encyclical is in the making

, Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - The Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, confirmed today that Pope Benedict XVI is about to finish his Encyclical on social issues.

"Yes, the Pope is working on a social encyclical, which will have, I believe, a significant impact on the great social and economic problems in the contemporary world," said Cardinal Bertone during an interview published today by the Italian daily "La Repubblica."

Pope Benedict, according to Cardinal Bertone, "will address issues particularly related to the third and the fourth world."

The concept "fourth world" was coined by Pope John Paul II in his social encyclical “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis”, in reference to the poor and marginalized living in developed countries, especially in inner cities.

The Secretary of State gave no clue as to when the document will be released, but unnamed sources from the Vatican quoted previously by the daily "Il Messaggero," said the third encyclical of Pope Benedict would be signed on the feast of St. Joseph –March 19th  - and released during Easter.

"The encyclical will focus on international social problems, with special attention to developing countries," Cardinal Bertone told "La Repubblica."

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Arkansas Catholics asked to break ties with Komen foundation

Little Rock, Ark., Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - Little Rock, Arkansas is the latest diocese asking its members to halt their support for the Susan G. Komen Foundation due to a portion of their proceeds being given to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States.

The Komen Foundation is an international organization that raises millions annually for the research, detection and treatment of breast cancer.  A portion of their proceeds is given to Planned Parenthood for breast exams and to educate women in their clinics.

The director of the Little Rock diocese’s Respect Life Office, Marianne Linane, stated that her office "neither supports or encourages participation" in Komen activities after receiving several inquiries from pro-life Catholics about the diocese's position.

According to the Diocese of Little Rock, several parishes and schools have hosted teams for the Komen Race for the Cure over the years.  The event attracts more than 43,000 participants to the 5K race in Little Rock alone each October. More than 15,000 people participate in the Komen race in Springdale each April. 

In a February 4 statement, Little Rock diocesan administrator Monsignor J. Gaston Herbert addressed Catholics as a way to inform them of the ties between the Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood.

“Due to its policy allowing affiliates to offer financial support to abortion providing facilities and its endorsement of embryonic stem cell research, and the continued denial that abortion may well lead to the development of breast cancer, the Respect Life Apostolate neither supports nor encourages participation in activities that benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure.”

Though donors are only giving money to be used for breast exams, “Donors cannot control how an organization designates its funds. Therefore, money donated for a specific service, i.e. breast health care, directly frees up funds to support other areas of an organization's agenda, i.e. contraception services, ‘safe’ sex education and abortion services.”

The statement continued by addressing the link between abortions and an increase in breast cancer.  “The research of Joel Brind, Ph.D., a professor of endocrinology and founder of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, and the work of Dr. Janet Daling, a leading cancer epidemiologist and pro-choice advocate, invalidate a dismissal of the link. Daling said, ‘I would have loved to have found no association between breast cancer and abortion, but our research is rock solid, and our data is accurate. It's not a matter of believing, it's a matter of what is.’”

Finally, the statement focused on the foundation’s support of embryonic stem cell research.  “the destruction of human life at any stage of development is never morally acceptable. Embryonic stem cell research is also unnecessary since adult stem cell research has a proven record of cures and treatments.”

The diocese also offered options to those looking to support breast cancer research.  “Rather than supporting any Komen fundraising, the Respect Life Apostolate encourages you to direct your donations to local hospitals that provide breast cancer services including detection, treatment, research and patient support groups.

“Donations made in this manner would not only stay entirely in Arkansas (25 percent of Susan G. Komen funds go to the national foundation where some grants are made to clinics providing abortion), they would eliminate the administrative funds for a middle broker. Thus, there would be more money available to spend on detection, treatment, prevention and research.”

Rebecca Gibson, a spokeswoman for the Komen foundation, told the AP that the group invested $69.6 million in more than 1,600 community-based education and screening programs during 2007. Of that, Planned Parenthood accounted for less than 1 percent of the funding, she said.

"It's insignificant in relation to all of the funding we do," Gibson said. "I think it's just really unfortunate undue attention is being shed on organizations that are providing vital services in those communities."

Little Rock is not alone in taking this stance.  Other dioceses across the country in Charleston, St. Louis and Phoenix have also addressed their concern with their parishioners.

The complete statement from the Diocese of Little Rock is available on the Respect Life Office page at

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End violence by material means and audacious evangelization, Pope tells Salvadorian bishops

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - Upon completing their “ad limina” visit, five of El Salvador’s bishops met with Pope Benedict XVI in a midday audience on Thursday. The Pontiff told the prelates that combating their country’s scourge of violence must be done at the material level and at the spiritual level, through “ambitious and audacious” evangelization.

Before speaking about the obstacles faced by Salvadorans, the Pope highlighted how most Salvadoran people "are characterized by their living faith and deep religious sentiment.” He also recalled the rich history of the faith in El Salvador.  “The Gospel, taken there by the first missionaries and fervently preached by pastors full of love for God such as Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, has become deeply rooted in that beautiful land, bringing abundant fruits of Christian life and sanctity."

Benedict XVI remarked on the fact that poverty forces many people to emigrate "in search of better living conditions, often bringing negative consequences to the stability of marriage and the family." He also recognized the prelates' efforts "to promote reconciliation and peace in the country and so overcome the painful events of the past."

Referring to violence, which "is considered as your country's most serious problem, you recognize" the Pope told the bishops "that its increase is the direct consequence of other deeper social scourges such as poverty, a lack of education, the progressive loss of those values which have always forged the Salvadorian soul, and the break-up of families. The truth is that the family is a vital asset for the Church and for society, as well as being a basic factor in constructing peace."

In order to tackle the poverty of so many people, said Benedict XVI, it is important "to improve infrastructures and economic conditions in order to enable everyone to enjoy a dignified life.

Yet it must not be forgotten that man is not just a product of the material and social conditions in which he lives. ... 'Man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope'".

Pope Benedict explained to the bishops that they must "promote ambitious and audacious efforts at evangelization" so as to ensure that all the faithful may experience "that intimate meeting with the living Christ which as at the basis and origin of Christian existence".

Speaking first about the lay faithful, the Holy Father encouraged the bishops to help them “discover the spiritual richness of their Baptism.” The shepherds of the faithful must also help them fulfill their vocation by leading them to “be firmly rooted in an intense life of prayer, to listen assiduously and humbly to the Word of God, to participate frequently in the Sacraments, and to acquire a strong ecclesial sense of belonging and solid doctrinal formation, especially as concerns the Church's social doctrine where they will find clear criteria and guidance to illuminate the society in which they live".

"A priest's love and faithfulness to his vocation", the Holy Father concluded, "will be the best and most effective form of vocational pastoral care, and an example and encouragement to your seminarians, who are the heart of your dioceses and to whom you must dedicate your best resources and efforts, because they are the hope for your Churches."

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Papal visit to Holy Land depends on situation Christians face in the region

, Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - The Apostolic Nuncio to the Holy Land, Archbishop Antonio Franco, reiterated his hope this week that Pope Benedict XVI would visit the region, but said the trip would only be possible if the difficulties being experienced by the Christian community are overcome and if progress is made on the Palestinian issue.

In an interview with, the archbishop said, “Our hope is that that day will arrive (the papal visit), and I am convinced that this trip would be beneficial for all. But what our negotiators keep repeating is that the Pope should be able travel in a positive atmosphere.  If the Catholic Christian community is experiencing difficulties and is in a state of permanent tension, it will be more difficult for the Pope to visit us, because we want the most serene atmosphere possible.”

“Insofar as the practical problems are resolved and progress is made on the core problem of the Palestinian issue, which in the end is the root of all other problems, the climate and the groundwork is created for a papal visit,” the archbishop said.

During the interview, he also stressed that the Holy See cannot sign any agreement with the State of Israel that includes fiscal obligations that the Christian community “cannot sustain.”  “The Holy See is not asking for privileges, but rather that the rights of Christians who live in this land be respected,” he said.

He warned that making the Catholic communities pay more would lead to their disappearance, as they depend on what they receive from the universal Church.

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Bishop recounts how Chavez supporters occupied Archdiocese of Caracas chancery

Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - In statements to the Catholic News Agency, Auxiliary Bishop Jesus Gonzalez de Zarate of Caracas recounted how a group of young people led by a well-known Chavez activist, occupied the archdiocesan chancery on Wednesday in order to get the attention of the media and demand that the TV station Globovision be shut down. 

According to the bishop, “shortly before 9am, a group of young people who identified themselves as students stormed into the chancery and went into all of the offices, saying they were going to peacefully occupy the chancery and warning employees to leave.”

The activists gathered together all of the employees “near the door, blocking the entrance, and at one point they tried to disconnect the telephone system, insisting that their ‘peaceful’ occupation was intended to publicly present a statement of their positions on different issues facing the country, including some related to the Church,” Bishop Gonzalez said.

The group of activists said they planned to occupy the chancery for two hours.  “I began to talk with them to try to get them to drop that idea,” the bishop continued, saying he offered them the chance to discuss their grievances.  They refused to talk with him and instead continued to occupy the chancery until the media showed up and they were able to voice their positions.  Afterwards, they left the building. 

“Even though I invited them to talk, to discuss, to exchange opinions about matters of the Church, they were not receptive.  What they wanted was to do it in public.  They used the windows of the second floor of the chancery to shout slogans and show signs displaying their positions,” the bishop added.

Bishop Gonzalez stressed that violence is not the way to overcome the “climate of tension” that has enveloped the country.  He called on everyone to understand “the need to exhaust all means of dialogue,” and he reiterated the call for national reconciliation repeatedly made by the bishops’ conference.

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Cardinal Bertone’s visit opened “more room” for the Church in Cuba, says spokesman

Havana, Cuba, Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - The executive secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba, Father Jose Feliz Perez, said the recently concluded visit by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to Cuba has opened more room for the Church to carry out her mission.

The presence of Cardinal Bertone led to “a more fluid exchange with authorities, in which the concerns of the Church could be discussed with more trust and realism,” Father Perez said.

The visit by Cardinal Bertone “opens more room than already existed, as occurred with the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998,” he continued.

Asked by reporters if there would be significant changes in relations between the local Church and the government, Father Felix underscored that “it’s only been a short time since the visit, and so anything new I think will be seen in the coming days or weeks.”

He also said the visit was important because of the message the cardinal conveyed on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, which was one of encouragement and support.

As he left Cuba on Tuesday night, Cardinal Bertone said he hoped the visit would serve as a new impulse to relations between the Church and the state, which “will always be challenging, but also full of opportunities to promote the common good of Cubans.”

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Spanish bishop calls on young people to give up text messages for Lent

Girona, Spain, Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - The Diocese of Girona in Spain, together with Caritas Girona, is calling on young people to “abstain” from sending text messages during Lent—which ends on March 20—as part of the Lenten campaign called “Disconnect to get connected.”

The campaign encourages young people aged 14 to 30 to give up three text messages per day and to spend less time connected to the internet during the forty days of Lent.

According to Caritas, sending three less text messages per day means saving $36 over the 40 day period.  The youth director for the Diocese of Girona, Jordi Callejon, explained that next year the campaign will be spread to all of Catalonia, since the 2,500 pamphlets that were printed have all been distributed and “schools are getting very involved.”

In order to take part in the campaign, young people should donate the money they save to a charity and the time they save staying off the internet should be used helping those in need.

Callejon said the purpose is to make young people aware that “by saving three messages, they can help other kids who don’t have the same advantages.”

He also noted the benefits of spending less time in front of the computer and instead helping others.  “The important thing is to make them aware, not the money that they give,” he emphasized.

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Politicians call for defunding Planned Parenthood after reports of pornography promotion

Washington D.C., Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) - Following recent revelations that a Planned Parenthood youth site has been promoting pornography to teenagers, three House representatives have called for the termination of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, Cybercast News Service reports.

A 2007 article on the Planned Parenthood-sponsored website advised pornography use as a “lower-risk form of outercourse.”  "Many couples can read or watch sexy stories or pictures together," the article stated. "They can also share or act out sex fantasies.”

Another advice piece, “Porn vs. Reality,” noted that it is against federal law for anyone under 18 to view pornography.  The article then says “however, not everyone follows the rules, and you may run across some porn before you turn 18.”  The also article said that many people enjoy pornography “alone or with a partner.”  It continued, “People have different ideas of what is arousing, and there are many different kinds of porn that appeal to people's different interests."

Three House Republicans spoke to Cybercast News Service after reviewing the materials from 

Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado said the site "is another reason we should pull all federal funding from Planned Parenthood."  He continued, "Time and time again this organization has used taxpayer dollars to promote interests that are not in step with the values of the American people."

"We should shut off all federal dollars to any organization that provides abortion services or counseling," Iowa Rep. Steve King added. "There should be no money that goes to any Internet site that promotes promiscuity or sexual license in any way. If there is going to be sexual license promoted, let that happen some place else. But the federal government should not be subsidizing it," he said.

Rep. Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania also condemned the funding of the material.  "I don't believe taxpayer funding should be going to groups that put sexually explicit material on the Internet targeted at minors," he told Cybercast News Service.  "Parents today already have their work cut out for them trying to keep their kids from viewing smut on the Internet.

"The federal government shouldn't be funding groups that produce this sort of material under the pretense that it is educational," he said.

Planned Parenthood and similar family planning organizations are funded under Title X of the Public Service Health Act.  In its 2005-2006 annual report, Planned Parenthood Federation of America reported that $305.3 million, 34 percent of its annual income, came from government grants and contracts.

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UCLA student sting exposes racism at Planned Parenthood

Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 28, 2008 (CNA) -

The Advocate, a student magazine at UCLA, has released phone recordings of Planned Parenthood fundraising staffers approving of a donor who claimed he wanted his money to help "lower the number of black people."

The magazine conducted a seven-state investigation to discover how Planned Parenthood fundraising centers would respond to a caller who expressed explicitly racist motives. 

An actor posing as a racist donor called Planned Parenthood development centers asking that his donations be used to abort African-American babies to "lower the number of black people."  Each branch agreed to process the racially earmarked donation.  None expressed concern about the racist motives for the donation, and some staffers encouraged the racist reasoning.

In a phone conversation with an Idaho Planned Parenthood office, the actor stated, “the less black kids out there, the better.”  Director of Development Autumn Kersey called his position “understandable” and indicated she was excited to process his donation since she had never had a request “like this” before.  An Ohio representative, Lisa Hutton, after hearing the donor’s racist explanation said that Planned Parenthood “will accept the money for whatever reason.”

The Editor-in-chief of The Advocate, UCLA sophomore Lila Rose, is leading a student campaign petitioning UCLA to end its ties with Planned Parenthood.  Her campaign has won the support of Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rose’s previous work in The Advocate has been featured on The O’Reilly Factor and national radio.  Rose said she is hopeful that regardless of their position on abortion, students can unite to combat Planned Parenthood’s racism both past and present.

UCLA senior Jose Manaiza, who was a 2007 nominee for the UCLA Student of the Year award and winner of the 2007 UCLA Chancellor’s Service Award, called upon his fellow African-American students and the entire UCLA student body to "commit to this new era of the Civil Rights Movement and fight any type of racism from Planned Parenthood."

A video of the investigation’s phone calls is at

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