Planned Parenthood debate? Where?

A reader pointed us to this piece in the Canton Repository by Charita Goshay headlined “Clergy debate over Planned Parenthood shows no signs of abating.” OK, a journalistic debate sounds promising. Until you read it and see that the reporter managed to locate clergy on only one side of the story. And that side, you will be stunned to know, is the side that sees no problems with Planned Parenthood or the services it provides, including abortion.

So we get quote after quote after quote and 1100 words of one-sided advocacy journalism.

It would be absolutely hilarious if the topic weren’t so grave. I mean, it takes effort, in its own way, to manage not to find a single member of the clergy with qualms about Planned Parenthood. The frequently quoted folks are the Rev. Doyle A. Luckenbaugh, a retired United Church of Christ pastor who “has supported Planned Parenthood since its inception,” and the Rev. Missy Shiverick, a parish associate at a Presbyterian congregation who is a member of the Clergy Advisory Board at Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio. For balance, we get an employee of Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio.

So here’s a sample of the “debate”:

“I’ve never seen a woman waltzing in, giddy about having an abortion,” Shiverick said. “A problem pregnancy is a problem pregnancy. There’s nothing sadder than having to counsel a family having to make a horrendous decision that, thank God, I never had to make.”

“The decision to terminate a pregnancy is a moral decision,” Luckenbaugh said. “It’s easy to present it as a black-and-white issue, but there are always extenuating circumstances.”

“The sad fact is, women will always continue to have abortions,” Shiverick said. “Women will take any measure. Rich women will always find a way.

“For many low-income and young women, Planned Parenthood provides their chief source of health care, including screenings for cervical cancer. It’s an incredible justice issue. We can’t rally around this enough as people of faith.”

Luckenbaugh noted that many religious people who are opposed to abortion and contraception are opposed to Planned Parenthood’s sex-education programs designed for schools.

“What is more Christian than making sure a baby is wanted and can be provided for?” he asked. “Those who claim to be ‘pro-life,’ I think they’re pro-birth. The issue for me becomes once the child is born … almost inevitably it puts young women into poverty that they can’t get out of, and they become dependent upon society and the government.”

That’s an actual excerpt from the story. The reporter doesn’t bother asking pro-life clergy if they have a response to the characterizations provided by those who support abortion rights.

And it’s even creepier because the very first paragraph tells us that earlier in the week a group of nameless black clergy picketed outside the Planned Parenthood facility as part of the Black Pro-Life Coalition’s “National Day of Mourning.” We’re later told that one critic calls their pro-life protest “shop-worn tactics.”

So, what do these nameless black clergy say in response? Why are they mourning? We don’t know because the reporter doesn’t think identifying or speaking with these clergy is worthwhile for the story.

Ah, but it gets worse, somehow. The last part of the piece has the subhed “Other Faiths” where the Presbyterian pastor tells us what Jews believe. Then the reporter tells us what “Islam” has to say about birth control and what “Buddhism” has to say about abortion. It’s an odd almost dogmatic section with absolute pronouncements about what various groups believe. No sign of complexities there, as in debates between Orthodox and Reform Jews.

Then we get back to the “debate”:

Shiverick said some are misinterpreting Scriptures to make their case against birth control and abortion, such as Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

“Those passages were written to a different people and time,” she said. “It’s saying that God knows us; it’s not to make a statement about abortion.

“I’m willing to accept another person’s faith. Not agreeing is part of our heritage. But I’d like my faith respected. I don’t think faith should be the law of the country.”

Well, debate settled, I guess. There are no voices of dissent.

Thanks to the Canton Repository for a thorough airing of all sides and viewpoints in this balanced journalistic debate.

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  • Jeff H

    It’s even more shocking that the reporter relied on Rev. Luckenbaugh as someone who “has supported PP since its inception,” in that many secular supporters of PP don’t dare go back that far, what with PP founder Margaret Sanger’s published support for eugenics in general, and specifically sterilization among the mentally disabled and white supremacist pre-birth elimination of African-American babies (

  • C. Wingate

    I also like how the religious authority cited for that last section (who is the only other reverend cited) is speaking on behalf of PP. Really, should anyone trust her?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    What hit Jeff H. also hit me. At its inception Planned Parenthood was one of the most virulently racist organizations on the planet. Is that minister admitting he was (or maybe still is) a bedrock racist???
    And maybe if this reporter-propagandist for Planned Parenthood had done just a little historical research he could have asked some really probing questions.

  • J. Lahondere

    I found this passage disturbing:

    “Under Jewish law, a fetus is considered part of the pregnant woman’s body and is not regarded as a “full” human being with a distinct personality. Jewish law also mandates that a fetus should be cared for because it is a potential human; however because it is not, it does not have human privileges or rights.”

    I am not an expert on Judaism, but it is my understanding from associating with many Jewish people (Orthodox and otherwise) over the years that abortion is viewed by the Jewish community as very morally wrong, and most definitely a sin.

    I don’t think that passage gave that impression at all, though. It was willfully (offensively) vague, to the point that people reading this who know nothing about Judaism might walk away with the impression that “Jewish law” has nothing to really say on abortion.

  • J

    Jeff-Sanger was a complicated soul. She also opposed abortion as the taking of life. She was completely opposed to killing the unfit, preferring to sterilize them. Of course, the modern Planned Parenthood doesn’t hold to the same ideals at all.

  • John Pack Lambert

    Since Planned Parenthood was formed in 1916, is the author saying that Mr. Luckenbaugh is at least 100 years old and was supporting Planned Parenthood at age 5? That would be news worthy if it were true. How many 5-year-olds have any formulated political views?