Federal and state lawmakers need to take a breath before moving any further with how they should react to controversial, surreptitious videos focusing on a couple of Planned Parenthood officials and how abortion details are handled.
Here are the facts and the very real danger that knee-jerk politicians flirt with by saying they’ll remove all federal funding from Planned Parenthood. The contrived controversy surrounds what becomes of fetal tissue from abortions, how it’s handled and what becomes of it. The issue is so shocking because so few people give much thought to the particulars. Anti-abortion activists have capitalized on the uncomfortable and in some ways unnerving aspects of human tissue used for research and treatment.
Clearly some of the comments and details revealed in the videos warrant federal officials, and possibly congressional lawmakers, to ask Planned Parenthood officials questions and get answers. But the histrionics by some lawmakers is nothing more than political theater with very real and dangerous consequences.
That’s because the historical mission of Planned Parenthood and what they focus the vast majority of their considerable programs on is pregnancy prevention. For generations, this venerable and vital organization has provided tens of millions of women and men with critical services for family planning and the prevention of sexually transmitted disease. Anyone who disputes the importance of this work and the program’s success at providing it cheaply and professionally doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
For those deeply opposed to abortion, the bulk of the work Planned Parenthood has done for generations has and does prevent untold millions of abortions and unwanted babies.
We have moved so far from the days of American women being held hostage by the lack of family planning that we often forget how birth control and its availability to middle-class and poor people fundamentally made all other equal rights strides possible. Those who think that the money can be moved from Planned Parenthood to other programs to get the same results are naive and misled.
This doesn’t excuse the callous and offensive remarks by some Planned Parenthood officials, who do not represent that vast network of professional healthcare workers providing these critical, personal and very private services to millions. Americans, and Congress, however, must keep in mind that the uncomfortable details of all ethical issues surrounding healthcare, research and medicine can appear ghastly when exposed. Much of the public would be shocked at how seemingly callous and unaffected people are who routinely dissect cadavers, embalm the dead, transport or harvest donated body parts or handle the grim reality of aborted fetuses. While Americans have every right to expect every detail of these issues be handled with professionalism, compassion and dignity, we would be wrong to confuse the mundane with inhumanity. These are serious and difficult issues cheapened by activists and lawmakers exploiting them for political gain.
State and federal researchers should create panels of medical professionals and ethics experts to probe the fetal tissue quagmire and Planned Parenthood’s part in that. But Congress couldn’t make a more glaring mistake by threatening to undermine the critical non-abortion work the program provides to a class of Americans who desperately need those services, which in turn benefit all of us. Back off, then back up, Congress.