Planned Parenthood: The Scandal Continues

August 24, 2015 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Planned Parenthood 2I wish I didn’t feel the need to write about this again. I wish that after the first video hit the web exposing Planned Parenthood’s alleged sale of fetal organs, our society would have risen up with unified moral outrage and called for an end to such a ghastly practice. But as things often go, positions are so entrenched and worldviews are so decided that even when people are confronted with something that can be described as nothing less than reprehensible, they are more devoted to defending a cause than they are to figuring out what is right.

Such is the case with the Planned Parenthood scandal. Though some supporters have expressed new reservations in light of what has been exposed, the needle of public opinion concerning the organization remains largely unmoved. People who despise Planned Parenthood continue to despise Planned Parenthood. And people who support Planned Parenthood continue to support Planned Parenthood. But what has happened will never be truly addressed if all we do is wage another culture war where two sides, impenetrable in their positions, muster their troops and try to defeat each other. What is needed is not a war, but a thoughtful consensus on what has happened and what can change into the future. So allow me to offer a few thoughts, once again, on Planned Parenthood with the hope of fostering discussion and, ultimately, some sort of agreement.

First, when I last blogged on Planned Parenthood after the scandal initially broke, I asked, “In what world is it okay to turn a baby breech so you can smash its legs, kill it, and then harvest its organs for profit? Is there any conceivable scenario where this is okay?” In light of a newer video, I can ask similar questions: In what world is it okay to abort a baby and, while its heart is still able to beat, cut down the middle of the baby’s face to extract the brain? Is there any possible moral system that makes this acceptable? The answer can only be, “No.” This is so self-evidentially morally repugnant, the only appropriate response is utter disgust. And if we are not disgusted, we have moved far beyond an ethical issue to be discussed. We have moved into a psychopathy that needs to be treated.

Second, supporters of Planned Parenthood have trumpeted again and again the good the organization does. Consider this from Molly Redden of Mother Jones:

While its opponents tried to brand Planned Parenthood as an abortion mill, the group has stressed that abortions make up only 3 percent of its services, and STI screenings, Pap tests, and pregnancy prevention comprise the vast majority of its activities. The group, which now receives $528 million in federal funding (or 41 percent of its annual budget), also provides contraception to almost 40 percent of women who rely on public programs for family planning.[1]

Planned Parenthood’s supporters argue that the organization does so much good, that the abortions they perform – something that comprises only 3 percent of their services (which, as others have pointed out, is misleading and little more than an ethical dodge) – and the baby parts they traffic are simply not worth our intense scrutiny. We need to forget about the ethically questionable practices of Planned Parenthood and instead focus on the morally venerable services of Planned Parenthood.

But as even some abortion advocates have pointed out, to dismiss the moral problems incumbent on abortion and the sale of baby parts by simply saying, “Planned Parenthood does a lot of good stuff too,” is logically and ethically spurious. This would be much like saying, “This benevolent benefactor left millions to his extended family of 75 members and only murdered one of them, his wife – and that was because she was cheating on him! In light of all the good he has done, and because his anger at his cheating wife is understandable, any murder charges that might be brought against him should be dismissed.” Most people would say it doesn’t matter how much good he has done for the rest of his family. He needs to be held to account for taking his wife’s life. A lot of good cannot excuse this kind of bad. Likewise, Planned Parenthood’s good health services do not and must not excuse their bad abortions.

Third, supporters of Planned Parenthood, when faced with the ghastly reality of what is happening, seem willing to content themselves with the technicalities of whether or not what Planned Parenthood has done is legal, implying that as long as it’s legal, it must also be moral. In a slight variation on this theme, supporters also point to polls that show majority support for continued federal funding of some of Planned Parenthood’s services, implying that if voters are okay with Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood must, in fact, actually be okay. But one does not need to be an expert in ethics or, for that matter, history to know that what is right is not always coterminous with what is legal or popular. Slavery, after all, was once legal and popular. But we would certainly not say it was right. Morality must in some way transcend current popular human sentiment. Otherwise, historical and contemporary standards of morality collapse into a morass of relativism. Legality and popularity simply will not do when it comes to settling morality.

Finally, for all the concerns I have outlined with those who support Planned Parenthood, I should also point out that if you’re against Planned Parenthood, you must be known not only for what you’re against, but who you’re for. You need to be for life. And you need to be for the moms who carry new life.

On Facebook the other day, I came across a faux, but helpful, conversation that captures the anxiety that often surrounds birth and abortion:

Question: I’m pregnant. What should I do?
Answer: Keep the baby!
Question: Okay! Can I have prenatal vitamins?
Answer: What?
Question: Can I have financial help for doctor appointments?
Answer: Ummm…
Question: Can I at least get paid maternity leave?
Answer: Excuse me?

The point of the conversation is well taken. To support life means to support those who are carrying new life. So if you are pregnant and scared, before you call Planned Parenthood, get help from someone who is committed to supporting the new life in you because they love you and want what’s best not only ethically for society, but for you personally.

Perhaps the saddest part of these continued Planned Parenthood exposés is that, with the release of each video, public interest continues to wane. This is why I decided to write another blog on this ongoing, even if mutedly so, scandal. This is something that deserves our attention and our moral conviction. This is something that demands our voices and our efforts. Will you lend your voice and hand to help?

Lives are at stake.


[1] Molly Redden, “Pro-Choicers Are Actually Freaked Out About These Planned Parenthood Sting Videos,” Mother Jones (7.23.2015).

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