Saturday, March 5th, 2011

More abortion absolutists have weighed in at the “On Faith” column in the Washington Post. You’ll remember from my earlier post that the column asked this absurd question:

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions, along with a variety of health care services for women. The Virginia General Assembly last week approved legislation that requires abortion clinics to be regulated as hospitals, and providers say the stricter regulations will force many of them out of business. Both measures were pushed by anti-abortion activists. Should personal and religious views be allowed to prevent women from having access to a legal medical procedure?

To answer “no” to this question is essentially to say that pro-life views have no legitimate place in American political discussion, and that the First Amendment and foundational democratic principles don’t apply when the sacred right to abortion is involved. Former seminary professor of ethics Valerie Elverton Dixon is more than willing to take that plunge:

Personal and religious views ought not to be allowed to prevent a woman from having access to a legal medical procedure. She ought to have access to the procedure whether or not her own personal and religious views constrain her from seeking the procedure. Women are rational and free human beings capable of making decisions about their own health care needs. The state ought to both respect and protect a woman’s right to make these decisions. To do otherwise is to press the coercive power of the state down upon the bodies of women.

Every day, the state uses its coercive powers to restrict countless decisions that involved our bodies: whether to shoot heroin; whether to drive drunk; whether to wantonly spread diseases, etc. The argument from “choice” has been losing steam precisely because people realize that the issue isn’t choice, it’s the rightness or wrongness of the particular choice being made. Dixon is apparently willing to say that the state should get inside the heads of those who oppose the abortion license, and rule impermissible those views that are “personal and religious.” The determination of such impermissibility would, presumably, be made by the high priests of the culture of death.

The decision in the United States House of Representatives to cut federal funding of Planned Parenthood is a move to restrict access to safe and legal abortion, but it also restricts access to the other health services that Planned Parenthood provides for both men and women. Further, it is another in a long parade of offenses intended to keep woman identified with and limited to her biological function of child-bearing. A woman is more than a womb.

Not only does she provide no evidence for this assertion, I don’t even know what it means. I had a colonoscopy yesterday–does that mean that the doctor was treating me as nothing more than a digestive system? From the evidence, it would seem that at least some Planned Parenthood clinics treat their “patients” as nothing more than cash cows, but Dixon can spare no indignation for that.

In the United States of Amnesia, we have to be intentional about remembering history. So, in honor of Women’s History Month, let us recall in brief the history of family planning in the United States. Planned Parenthood grew from the birth control movement of Margaret Sanger and others that started around 1916. Sanger was a nurse working among the poor in the slums of the Lower East Side of Brooklyn, New York.

The women she worked with suffered from chronic pregnancy and many died from homemade abortions. The Comstock Act of 1873, an anti-obscenity law, made it illegal to give women information about birth control. Such information was considered pornographic. Sanger broke the law in acts of civil disobedience because she understood the connection between unrestrained fertility and poverty, between a lack of birth control and infant and maternal mortality. The Comstock Act stood until 1965 when a Supreme Court decision–Griswold v Connecticut–overturned it.

Yes, by all means, let’s remember history. Sanger was a racist eugenicist who sought to control if not eliminate “inferior” people, including those of color like Dixon. Planned Parenthood started out as an instrument of eugenics, and evolved into an instrument of population control. As for Dixon’s history, I haven’t heard that anyone–anyone–is proposing we return to pre-Griswold days. By the way, the Supreme Court didn’t overturn the Comstock Act, which is still on the books. It ruled unconstitutional the provisions regarding contraception information and equipment being sent through the mails. Bans on contraception had been overturned in 1936. Details, details.

Anyway, Dixon then meanders into some uninteresting, irrelevant stuff about Woman as the Other, but then gets back to the subject at hand, and essentially says that no one has a right not to be killed until she says so:

In March 2011, the madness continues, and the right of women to exercise choices remains under attack. This is done in the name of an unborn child. Let us be clear: there is no right to be born. Birth is a gift. A coerced gift is no gift at all. Thank God and your mother for your life.

“Birth is a gift”–the Lord giveth, and the abortionist taketh away. So it appears that Dixon is a supporter of abortion for any reason, at any time, via any method. RU-486, partial birth, to kill girls, destroy Down’s syndrome children, it’s all good. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about an eighth-month, fully viable, healthy child–to Dixon, it’s still nothing more than a mass of inconsequential cells with that can be disposed of at will. Dixon, of course, doesn’t bother to explain why there is a moral difference between a child one day before birth and one day after. Apparently, just like in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. One day the abortionist can rip you apart, the next day he goes to jail for exactly the same action performed on exactly the same individual.

The state’s primary purpose is to protect the rights of individuals once they are born. So, in the collision of concerns–the rights of women to control her own body and the concern for an unborn fetus–the duty of the law is to protect the rights of the woman. Therefore, we must necessarily leave the protection of the fetus to the judgment of the woman. Here religion may play a part in persuading her one way or another. However the coercive force of law in this instance is unjust.

This is a striking thing for a person such as Dixon to say. She’s a contributor to Sojourners, and has many times used the expression “the least of these” to refer to those whom the state has an obligation to protect, support, and help. But apparently that protection doesn’t extend to those who truly are the most helpless among us, who have no voice of their own, and who cannot defend themselves when those stronger than they are decide that their lives may be dispensed with. And because those defenseless ones are of no consequence to Dixon, she has no trouble saying that no one should be allowed to do for them what they cannot do for themselves.

United Church of Christ pastor Susan Smith takes up the refrain:

I cannot figure out why the reproductive rights of women cannot be left alone by politicians and others who disagree with the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion.

Apparently she thinks that abortion is a trivial matter than shouldn’t give anyone any pause. Therefore, she finds it inconceivable that there are actually people who think of abortion not in terms of “reproductive rights” but of the killing of innocent children, and who therefore think it should be stopped. I mean, why get all bent out of shape? It’s only a “fetus.” The echoes of those who defended slavery right all too true.

I do not like the fact that abortions happen. Honestly, in these days of the ready availability of so many types of contraception, it is hard for me to understand why anyone who doesn’t want to get pregnant …gets pregnant. I don’t believe in the “oops” phenomenon, amongst the vast numbers of women who are in child bearing age. It is simply too easy now to not get pregnant.

But when a woman does get pregnant, and does not want to be pregnant, I cannot figure out why people – politicians and others – just don’t leave them alone.

After all, there’s no one else involved. It’s just a woman and her unwanted growth, like a wart. Just let her have it cut off, won’t you?

Opponents of abortion want to protect the unborn fetus. OK, I get it. But those same protectors of the fetus turn their attention away from the babies once they are born. There is no outcry to take care of the children once they are here. In fact, lawmakers right now are proposing budget cuts that will cut funding for education of these little children. Headstart programs are being targeted for cuts. Health care for children has not been a priority of lawmakers in this country.

This is a standard calumny directed at pro-life people, one that is voiced a hundred times a day by pro-aborts who never, ever provide a shred of evidence other than political differences on other issues. The idea that those who are against abortion might actually think that there are better ways of caring for children once they are here never enters her head. The truth is, though, that even if pro-lifers agreed with Susan Smith down the line on the existential necessity of every government program ever conceived of, she’d simply find another way to attack them.

If abortion were outlawed, and everyone delivered the babies they conceived, then what? The fetuses would all be protected. They would be born…but if their mothers didn’t want them, and there was no extended family to take care of them, what would the anti-abortion proponents want to do then?

That’s a tough one. Let’s see. What could we do about that kind of situation…I’ve got it! Let’s try getting other people to take in those children whom no one else wants. We could call it something that sounds appealing like, say…adoption! Yeah, that’s the ticket!

There is something not just pathetic, but frightening about a person whose answer to the question, “what should we do with the unloved and unwanted?” is, “kill them.” Oh, Smith makes the usual noises about not liking abortion, but not only suggests nothing to stop it, but can’t even think of a way to deal with such children, except to allow their parents to kill them.

There is a danger when any of us insert our personal and political beliefs to become issues when it comes to practicing medicine. Early in America’s history, white hospitals would not treat black patients, and many people died because of it. The fact that personal and political beliefs are the bullies driving policy as concerns Planned Parenthood and clinics which provide, in addition to general women’s health care, abortions, is troubling, it is wrong, and it is unethical.

So it is unethical to follow one’s Christian conscience and so much as express the opinion in the public square that killing unborn children is wrong. She must have taken Valerie Dixon’s class.

Then there’s PCUSA pastor Janet Edwards, who also can’t seem to conceive of the possibility of anyone disagreeing with her:

The answer to this question is one that I hold dear, both as a Christian minister and as an American. And in a country like ours that has a fundamental constitutional value of separation between church and state, it couldn’t be more important.

The answer is No. Personal religious views cannot and should not prevent a woman from having access to a legal, medical procedure. I trust that left, right, center, religious and secular all agree upon this fundamental principle of our constitution.

Uh, no, Rev. Edwards, they don’t, and only a smug, self-absorbed intellectually bankrupt person would think so. So unexamined are her views, so self-evident her worldview, that she is seemingly incapable of grasping the notion that someone might actually disagree with her, and for good, solid, well formulated reasons. It really does boggle the mind that someone so completely detached from the world of reasoned discussion, so entirely cocooned in her own little ideological world, is given responsibility for the spiritual and intellectual development of a congregation of Christians.

Oh, and did I mention that the reference by pro-aborts to the separation of church and state is a red herring? I’m sure I’ve said that somewhere.

Obviously I disagree with the people I’ve been Fisking–Flynn, Lynn, Thistlethwaite, Dixon, Smith, and Edwards–about the morality of abortion. But there’s something more at work in this motley collection of abortion supporters. There’s a totalitarian streak that says that those who disagree do not have the right to voice that disagreement, do not have the right to change the political arrangements, so not have a right to follow their conscience in a way that the American system allows. For these people, abortion really is the right that trumps all others, a secular sacrament that must be not only permitted but funded by all. And five of these people are certified leaders in the mainline churches and, in one instance, contributors to an allegedly evangelical magazine. For some, it really does seem as though Moloch has usurped the place of God.

If you only read one thing today, make it Kirsten Powers‘ column at the Daily Beast. Powers is a liberal Democrat, a former employee in the Clinton administration, and she does as fine a job of shredding one of Planned Parenthood’s main defenses as anyone I’ve seen.

Her argument, based in part on figures recently released by the Guttmacher Institute (a creation of Planned Parenthood), is that PP’s claim that without its contraceptive services, abortion would go up is factually false, and that availability of contraception is in fact not a reason why abortion happens at all. She writes:

[A] 2009 study by the journal Contraception found, in a 10-year study of women in Spain, that as overall contraceptive use increased from around 49 percent to 80 percent, the elective abortion rate more than doubled. This doesn’t mean that access to contraception causes more abortion—though some believe that—but that it doesn’t necessarily reduce it.

A January 2011 fact sheet by the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute listed all the reasons that women who have had an abortion give for their unexpected pregnancy, and not one of them is lack of access to contraception. In fact, 54 percent of women who had abortions had used a contraceptive method, if incorrectly, in the month they got pregnant. For the 46 percent who had not used contraception, 33 percent had perceived themselves to be at low risk for pregnancy; 32 percent had had concerns about contraceptive methods; 26 percent had had unexpected sex, and 1 percent had been forced to have sex. Not one fraction of 1 percent said they got pregnant because they lacked access to contraception. Some described having unexpected sex, but all that can be said about them is that they are irresponsible, not that they felt they lacked access to contraception.

Now, it is probable that some percentage of those who used contraception got it from Planned Parenthood, but PP is hardly a sole provider. You can get condoms at any convenience store, and for medical methods, there are lots of outlets. Powers expresses astonishment at the response this argument gets:

Asked about the “Contraception” study, the Guttmacher numbers and why no women were saying they got abortions due to lack of access to contraception, a Planned Parenthood spokesman emailed this Orwellian response: “I think the biggest barrier is access to affordable contraception.”  Huh?

“Huh?” is right. See, contraception, as well as all other family planning services other than abortion (except in instances of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is endangered) is covered by Medicaid. In other words, there is effectively no financial barrier for anyone to get birth control, and no necessity for them to get it from Planned Parenthood.

Powers’ conclusion is dead on:

To preserve its federal subsidy, Planned Parenthood continues to claim that without its contraception services the abortion rate will go up. This deception smacks of a fleecing of taxpayers in an effort to promote an ideological agenda, rather than a sincere effort to help women plan families.

What is that ideology, exactly? To find out, you have to dig through Planned Parenthood’s tax forms because the group certainly isn’t going to tell you. According to its most recent tax filing, the purpose of Planned Parenthood Federation of America is to provide leadership in “[a]chieving, through informed individual choice, a U.S. population of stable size in an optimum environment; in stimulating and sponsoring relevant biomedical, socio-economic, and demographic research.”

So it is, in reality, a population-control organization. Funny, this was never mentioned in the gauzy $200,000 advertising campaign launched last week. It also doesn’t make it into the “About Us” section of the group’s website, which repeatedly claims its mission is to protect women’s health, when in fact the real mission is to keep the birth rate at whatever level the leaders believe it should be.

To hear Planned Parenthood and their supporters, they exist only to provide Pap smears or breast exams or prenatal services. In fact, President Cecile Richards has gone so far as to erroneously imply that they provide mammograms. (A spokesperson for the group confirmed to me that this is untrue.)

Planned Parenthood officials are allowed to believe whatever they want and to pursue whatever goals they choose. But their dishonesty in how they present their organization to the public, along with ignoring basic statistics about their area of expertise, makes you wonder what else they are hiding. It’s also hard to deny that they are at core a blindly ideological organization, not a run-of-the-mill charitable nonprofit.

Whatever you think of abortion rights, this is not the kind of organization that taxpayers should be funding.

Read it all, and pray that more liberals will stop drinking the Planned Parenthood Kool-Aid, and take the stand that Kirsten Powers has.