Planned Parenthood a Week On image

Planned Parenthood a Week On

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By a quirk of timing I was one of the first few hundred viewers of that Planned Parenthood video, and immediately linked to it on Think. A week on it has been viewed millions of times.

Think is a UK based blog and this is a US story but it has been interesting to see how the video of Planned Parenthood’s Dr Nucatola describing the harvesting of body parts from aborted fetuses (or shall we just call them babies?) has been reported here. The BBC was very quiet on it, but then posted a brief report online. Perhaps surprisingly, the Daily Telegraph doesn’t seem to have picked up on the story at all, while The Guardian has – from its pro-choice stance. But despite its pro-choice position, the unease provoked by Nucatola’s nonchalant description of abortion was reflected by columnistJessica Valenti:

Even as a person who has had two abortions, I cringed while listening to her talk about taking care during terminations to remove the fetus in such a way that vital organs and tissue are saved. This is not easy stuff to go through; it is not easy to hear about.

The Guardian also reports on the investigation launched by three American states into the activities of Planned Parenthood, and focuses on the robust response of Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards.

Casting the net slightly wider it is not difficult to find comment denouncing the Center for Medical Progress as right-wing women haters, and the video they released as essentially fraudulent. Whether polemical or more measured, the pro-choice response has been largely centred on denying that foetal body parts have been sold, instead emphasising that money is paid simply to cover the costs of retrieving and transporting the material. This is certainly the line of defence mounted by Planned Parenthood:

At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does – with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards. There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood.  In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.

This response exposes the essential fault line between the pro-choice and pro-life camps. As a pro-lifer it really makes very little difference to me whether livers and brains from aborted babies are sold for profit or donated at cost. There can be a kind of knee-jerk reaction, especially in the UK, that regards anything in the medical sector done for profit as deeply suspect while not-for-profit is in some way virtuous in and of itself. This is a specious distinction. For the pro-lifer, what makes this case different from ‘regular’ organ donation is that someone has been killed in order to enact it. It is not the donation by someone who has died and nominated their organs for research or transplant; it is not a sibling donating a kidney: it is the taking of ‘tissue’ by the taking of life.

So I find Cecile Richards’ steely eyed defence of Planned Parenthood every bit as chilling as Deborah Nucatola’s blasé description of the procedures involved. The body parts of babies may not have been sold, but the lie that what Planned Parenthood does is compassionate and noble certainly has.

It was the images of Nucatola discussing the crushing of certain body parts to preserve others, as she drank wine and ate lunch, that provoked mass revulsion; but as Jessica Valenti observes, “many of us might get a bit queasy hearing about most medical procedures over the dinner table.” Indeed. And what Planned Parenthood would have us believe is that abortion is merely another medical procedure. As so often, Carl Trueman sums things up nicely:

Planned Parenthood is not to be condemned. Surely it is to be congratulated for having so perfectly summarized the spirit of our age.

Indeed.


***UPDATED***

A second Planned Parenthood video, just released:

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