Touchstone Magazine Home
From the January/February, 2008 issue of Touchstone


Radio Free Pittsburgh by Phyllis Zagano

Radio Free Pittsburgh

Why an NPR Affiliate Turned Down Planned Parenthood’s Money

by Phyllis Zagano

Planned Parenthood is right up there with the Ku Klux Klan in trying to force its beliefs onto the airwaves of National Public Radio.

About seven years ago, the Missouri chapter of the Ku Klux Klan sued KWMU-FM, the radio station of the University of Missouri (St. Louis). Like the other 859 National Public Radio affiliates, KWMU affords “donors” or “underwriters” 15-second sponsorship “messages.” The station refused to accept an on-air Klan sponsorship message.

Now Planned Parenthood is whining because an NPR affiliate in Pittsburgh, WDUQ-FM, returned $5,000 of sponsorship underwriting.

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion and birth-control provider in the country. And the license for WDUQ is owned by Duquesne University, a Catholic school.

So that should be that. No one expects a Catholic license-holder to support Planned Parenthood’s message. Except Planned Parenthood, which, like the Ku Klux Klan, insists on its right to spread its philosophy on public radio, including (and especially) on WDUQ.

Incorporated in 1970 under the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, NPR can accept donations, and sponsors can underwrite entire programs or series. NPR affiliates can also reject whatever they want.

That’s because NPR—despite its name—is not a government agency, but a private non-profit. NPR receives about 2 percent of its funding through federal grants.

In Pittsburgh, Planned Parenthood supporters argued that public radio listeners have the right to all sides, which of course they do—where news is concerned. But sponsorship messages are not news.

The logic that argues for Planned Parenthood’s values to be spread by WDUQ would also say that Duquesne’s values should be spread by Planned Parenthood. So in addition to plain vanilla abstinence education, maybe Planned Parenthood should have links to the Diocese of Pittsburgh on its website, yes?

Of course no one expects that.

If we’re talking about federal dollars, consider this. Planned Parenthood receives huge amounts of federal funding under Title X of the Public Health Service Act of 1970. While Title X funds cannot be used for abortions, the buckets of federal dollars emptied on the front stoops of the 110 Planned Parenthood affiliates (operating 860 centers) free up other funding for their abortion services and policy agendas. Planned Parenthood gets more than $300 million per year from government grants and contracts, and $600 million from other sources, including Medicaid.

The bottom line: There is a propaganda surge in Pittsburgh to undermine the application of both law and common sense. The Constitution protects freedom of religion as much as it protects freedom from religion. And Catholic institutions do not need to support abortion or abortion messages in any way, shape, or form any more than Planned Parenthood has to teach Catholic ethics.

This is deadly serious for Catholic institutions. There is a creeping notion of equanimity that wrongly asserts religious entities cannot stick to their values. In addition, abortion has been discussed so much that folks no longer pay attention.

Think about this. Planned Parenthood, which wants its messages on WDUQ, is the leading proponent of so-called partial-birth abortion. Planned Parenthood’s website includes a “Federal Abortion Ban Headquarters” to marshal its troops against the 2003 partial-birth abortion ban, recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

Planned Parenthood’s $5,000 donation to WDUQ also carries its concern that 3,300 pro-life (Planned Parenthood calls them “anti-choice”) measures have been introduced in state legislatures, and 250 have been enacted since 2001. It complains that 87 percent of US counties do not have an abortion provider. That’s what Duquesne University disagrees with.

The Ku Klux Klan lost its lawsuit. The court said the NPR “underwriting program was not a forum for speech and therefore did not implicate the First Amendment.” WDUQ agrees. It returned Planned Parenthood’s money and lost a few local dollars because Duquesne University said enough is enough. They own the license, and they don’t have to accept support from organizations so at odds with their ethical and moral values.Good for you, Duquesne. Good for you.

Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. Used by permission.

“Radio Free Pittsburgh” first appeared in the January/February 2008 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.

Letters Welcome: One of the reasons Touchstone exists is to encourage conversation among Christians, so we welcome letters responding to articles or raising matters of interest to our readers. However, because the space is limited, please keep your letters under 400 words. All letters may be edited for space and clarity when necessary.

This page and all site content © 2015 by The Fellowship of St. James. All rights reserved. Please send comments, suggestions, and bad link reports to