Most people, regardless of their views on abortion, were revolted by recent videos showing Planned Parenthood officials talking cavalierly about the harvesting of healthy fetal body parts and discussing the terms of the sale of those parts over wine at lunch.
A bit of national nausea is in order. Debate over the moral propriety of terminating a pregnancy is one thing. Marketing the still-living parts of those terminated is quite another.
Planned Parenthood and its apologists in the pro-abortion crowd have predictably been in damage control mode since the videos appeared, but their response seems creepily nonchalant. The message appears to be, “yeah, the tone was a touch indelicate, perhaps, but hey, that’s the business.”
During a debate with former U.S. Attorney for Colorado Mike Norton on a Denver news show, pro-choice Democratic strategist Laura Chapin admitted the taped conversations were “unpleasant,” but that “Doctors have medical conversations every day all day that are really not very pleasant.”
Indeed. But is Chapin suggesting the gory details of a life-saving surgery or amputation approach the level of discussing how best to crush a fetus so its heartbeat and other vital functions are stopped, but the still-healthy liver can be recovered?
If doctors were having medical conversations about how to perform an amputation to have some perfectly healthy bone marrow to sell, that would be close to the degree of barbarism Planned Parenthood is on tape as promoting.
There are a number of things that ought to come of this whole vile episode that really should have the support of abortion supporters and foes alike. First, an investigation of Planned Parenthood should be initiated. It’s illegal to traffic in body parts from aborted fetuses for a profit. The vaguely written law includes the loophole, which Planned Parenthood is falling back on, which permits remuneration to compensate for, as Charles Krauthammer succinctly put it, “shipping and handling.” An investigation is certainly warranted to discover whether Planned Parenthood was recognizing, straddling or flagrantly disregarding that deliberately blurry line.
Should an investigation reveal that Planned Parenthood was successful in not technically breaking the law, the focus then should shift to the law itself and whether or not it should be tightened.
The public defunding of Planned Parenthood also needs to be addressed. There has always been a question about the morality of the federal government forcing people to finance a private organization whose most well-known activity is a moral anathema to 50 percent of those paying taxes to support it. With the recent allegations and videos, it’s likely that even some, perhaps many, of those who otherwise support Planned Parenthood will now be aghast at the thought their tax dollars are going to fund trafficking of baby parts, legal or not.
While the current controversy is sighted upon the specific activities — the harvesting and sale of healthy fetal tissue — unearthed by the gag-inducing videos, it’s unavoidable this episode resurrects the grander debate over abortion itself. Abortion, thanks to the circumlocutions of the Supreme Court, is legal in America. But restrictions on the procedure can and have been instituted, navigating around the murky line of “viability.”
Murky the line is, because science continues to push it further back. Fetuses that 40 years ago were thought to have no chance whatsoever outside the womb are today routinely able to survive and grow. The public seems to get this, as polling suggests that greater numbers are in favor of banning late term abortions and growing numbers support bans on abortions within the second trimester.
Interestingly, public opposition to abortion seems to be taking a similar tract as its acceptance of same-sex marriage. As one came to know a gay person in his or her life, that person was more inclined to favor gay marriage (think Dick Cheney). It was accepted in society so quickly because it became not a legal or anthropological issue so much as one affecting a person you might know. Similarly, as ultrasound and other technology continues to develop that lets us experience the formation of life in the womb on a more intimate and personal level, an act of violence that ceases that formation becomes more abhorrent. Toss in videos of Planned Parent officials coldly discussing the bounty of that violence over lunch, and you have the kernel of a profound social evolution on the matter.
In his TV debate on the issue, Norton accurately pointed out, “It remains to be seen whether anybody… has the courage to investigate Planned Parenthood.”
Let’s hope they do. Planned Parenthood’s own callousness might have fed the public support needed to muster that courage.