Planned Parenthood Is Not the Problem (At Least, Not Exactly)

Planned Parenthood Is Not the Problem (At Least, Not Exactly) July 22, 2015
Photo: Women’s E-News, CC via Flickr

Planned Parenthood is not the problem.

At least, not exactly. The problem is the cultural ideology that we’ve accepted as irrefutable gospel truth. The ideology that makes itself the arbiter of personhood, categorically dismissing the possibilities of pre-birth dignity. The ideology that celebrates (not just regrettably makes safe) the on-demand choice to end life. The ideology that these bodies, not yet born but obviously and truly human, have no inherent value.

No value, that is, unless you are a research company looking for a “tissue donation”, at a price which may or may not benefit the clinic making the transaction, you know, depending on the haggling skills of those involved.

The problem is not an organization though. Not exactly. I see lots of Christians participating in that old knee-jerk reaction to immediately politicize the revelations that have taken place over the last week. To make it all about “Defund Planned Parenthood!” like a legislative “I told you so!” – all while the ideology tightens its grip.

Maybe defunding Planned Parenthood would help. Maybe not. Maybe it will happen. Maybe it won’t. I don’t know.

But I do know the funding is not the real problem, and neither is Planned Parenthood. At least, not exactly. The real problem is certainly seen in how quick our society is to jump to the defense of this organization, when contrasted with how loathe we are to defend the defenseless

And the real problem is how deep that defensiveness goes, how much our minds are held captive.

I kept seeing the defenses across the progressive media last week – It’s just medical science! Just because you’re grossed out by organ donation doesn’t make it wrong! What, are you going to stop scientists from studying adult cadavers too?! It’s a marvelous thing, this ideology. It’s willful ignorance, a chosen blindness.

It’s a lie we all agree to tell, and deep down we even know it’s a lie. A lie that would have us make the silly comparison between a cadaver dead by tragedy or circumstance and a baby dead by design.

That would have us celebrate crushed and killed human bodies made to order, you know, for “science.”

Planned Parenthood is not the problem. To say so makes superficial what must, finally, now, go deeper. To say so politicizes this, polarizes this, demonizes those who need some of the good services provided, skips over the life-threatening emergencies or criminal tragedies that some abortion procedures regrettably address. Paints good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains, out of physicians, political parties, pundits, and even patients.

But the problem is at the root. The problem is the deception that grips us. The problem, ultimately, is the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers and spiritual forces always at war with life, always stealing, killing, destroying. The problem is that empire-urge to make murder a matter of convenience, at any and every stage of human life.

Let’s go to that root instead of always aiming at the fruit.

And let’s, as God’s people, live out a consistent ethic of human life, renewing our own minds by undoing all our death-dealing ideologies, from womb to tomb – in a passionate pursuit of the Lord of Life. 

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  • Hmm, interesting and thought-provoking perspective. Thank you for sharing.
    I’m just curious: when is a baby a baby? It’s a legitimate, if unanswerable, question. I am an identical twin, so I always found the “conception” argument lacking even before I learned of situations like human chimeras.
    Also, if we fully respect human bodies, if we don’t want them crushed and possibly killed, why not respect the woman whose body is being literally rearranged and torn apart due to pregnancy? I feel weird about arguments that leave this important factor out. It’s a mistake to focus on just the baby’s body and not the woman’s.

    (Since we cannot know when life begins at this point, I tend to think the only cure for this whole thing is to stop unwanted pregnancies from happening, or develop science that is able to support a super underdeveloped baby outside the womb).

  • tyler

    Maybe defunding Planned Parenthood would help.

    unlikely. as abortions are less than 3% of the services pp performs, defunding it would primarily result in millions of people losing all access to reproductive and general health care, including access to contraception, medical screenings and tests, pre- and post-natal care, pregnancy counseling, etc. in addition, it should be common sense by now that when safe and legal abortions are unavailable, people turn to unsafe and illegal abortions instead rather than abortion declining at all. so really it would only help if you’re the type that thinks more dead and dying and underserved people are a positive thing.

    i mean, that’s all on you, but i personally consider that sort of thing to be a net negative.

  • Olivia Mae

    Wow. That’s why I mostly leave it to folks like you to write about these things. Thanks for articulating the deeper heartbreak and frustration inside me and probably many of us about this whole thing. I just can’t get it out in words. Such a great post from my perspective.
    I’ll leave it at that.

  • I think the comparison between crushing/killing and pregnancy, a natural and normal process for a woman’s body, is a stretch. No pun intended.

  • Haha, well, I enjoyed the pun. And you’re right, it’s not a good comparison. I mean, while pregnancy is natural, the natural can also be fairly brutal, so I still think forcing someone to go through with it is a bit icky. Yet, I agree comparing it to the violence in abortion doesn’t quite hold up.

  • thanks, friend :).

  • Right, I’m inclined to agree. I’ve heard some say that local/independent clinics could do a better job, that there are other organizational problems with PP to be addressed, but I’m not an expert in that conversation. So yeah, I hear this.

  • @hyattregency:disqus, yes. And @kelleydanahy:disqus, I do think we know when *life* begins, i.e., genetic human life begins when there is a viable embryo. The debate is around *personhood*, and the problem that dogmatically pro-choice folks face is arbitrarily ascribing personhood to the moment a fetus exits the birth canal when there is literally no change to biological/cognitive development at that moment.

  • tyler

    independent clinics might-or-might-not be able to do pp’s job as well or better–the way pp is set up, their clinics basically are independent and geared to the community they’re located in. either way, tho, the problem is that legislators are quite literally legislating these non-pp clinics out of existence: remember that every law meant to make it more difficult for a pp to stay open, also makes it more difficult for that small community-owned clinic to operate, even if they don’t do abortions. pp can usually afford to completely renovate their buildings every time a republican whimsically decides that their hallways need to be two inches wider, but since pp is a non-profit funded almost entirely by donations and grants (incredibly, it turns out that donating fetal tissue and organs at a loss to researchers is not some sort of lucrative enterprise), even they’re shutting down all over the country. needless to say, regions where pro-life governments are in control are experiencing increases in unwanted pregnancies and, yes, abortions, both legal and illegal.

    not only that, but there’s also the never-ending legal battles and investigations. pp, at this point, basically has an entire body of internal rules and regulations full of tried-and-true methods to maintain scrupulous legality. and even though these investigations never turn up anything, i’m sure i don’t need to tell you that it only takes one “undercover documentary”–like the most recent smear campaign–to go the way of ACORN. and again, this stuff affects even reproductive health clinics that don’t provide abortions: there are plenty of pro-lifers out there that see no distinction between abortion and contraception, or are just misinformed about the services offered, and are just as happy to send bomb threats and death threats their way, among other things.

    basically, the people in the pro-life contingent shouting “defund planned parenthood!” are universally either highly misinformed, or very well-informed and not-just-a-little-bit evil.

  • appreciate the info here :).

  • axelbeingcivil

    When writing this and condemning people for not defending the defenseless, did you consider that those who defend Planned Parenthood and don’t see fetuses as persons would argue that they’re trying to defend access of poor women to birth control (including both contraception and abortion), family planning materials, assistance with nutrition while pregnant, etc., and other services vital to allowing the poor and underprivileged the ability to try and raise healthy and happy children when and if they wish to have them?

    They’re trying to defend the defenseless too.

  • axelbeingcivil

    I think dogma will mess with anyone’s day. Generally speaking, most places in the developed world set abortion limits around 24 weeks, after which it can only occur if the fetus is non-viable or the mother’s life is in danger. That’s when most abortion advocates will set it, too; it’s about that point that you have 50% viability outside the womb and see the beginnings of brain waves indicative of higher brain function.

    Most abortions (>97% in the US) occur before the 13th week. >73% occur at 9 weeks or earlier. We can talk about fringe cases if you want, but that’s when most abortions take place, because the 24 week cut-off is 6 months in and most women have long since decided by then whether they want the baby or not.

    While it’s definitely odd to say that a fetus only becomes a newborn when it draws its first breath, such laws exist primarily to assist with edge cases. Most abortions are done well before such questions arise.