Column | Abortion: An American institution built on lies
The new head of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Leana Wen, stated in a recent interview that she intends to expand the organization’s services and reach. If by “expand” she means services other than abortion, then more power to her. But that is hard to square with Planned Parenthood’s status as the largest provider of abortion in the United States. It performed nearly 330,000 abortions in 2016. Abortion is also its biggest moneymaker.
It is ironic but telling that the new head of Planned Parenthood is a physician. Abortion is one of the rare exceptions in the medical field where advancements in scientific knowledge have done little to change the debate. When Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, there was no ultrasound technology to reveal the essential humanity of the child in utero. There was no fetal surgery to correct physical defects like spina bifida while a baby is still in the womb. And yet despite what we have learned in the past four and a half decades, abortion remains, in large part, an American institution built on a foundation of lies and promoted with a web of euphemisms.
A complete list would fill a book of substantial size. But some of the most common include:
1. “It isn’t really a human being.” This is the most fundamental lie, and the one that underpins abortion generally. It is usually commingled with other misstatements or grievous misunderstandings, like “It’s just a fetus;” “It cannot live on its own;” “The Supreme Court already decided this.” “Fetus” is simply Latin for “offspring.” It designates a human being at a particular developmental stage, like “infant” or “teenager.” The fact that a child not yet born cannot survive on its own makes it no different from a newborn – or, for that matter, an even older child. Many adults – ill, suffering with disabilities or elderly – similarly cannot live on their own. They are undeniably human, nevertheless. And in Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court never said that an unborn child is not a human being; it decided that it is not a “person” with legal rights under the Fifth and 14th Amendments.
2. “Abortion is health care.” Health care is about saving lives, not ending them. Abortion is a medical procedure that takes another human being’s life. Among the concerns expressed by many women who have had abortions is the inability to afford a(nother) child. But financial concerns could not be used as a justification for killing a 2-year-old – nor would we call it “health care,” even if the family’s financial woes would be alleviated thereby.
3. “Sexual consent is not consent to pregnancy.” A woman (or her partner) might truthfully say, “Just because I am having sex doesn’t mean that I want to have a child.” But sexual intercourse is the way the human species reproduces. In other words, it is therefore a known risk that you take when you decide to have sex. To use an analogy, just because you engage in a sport like BASE jumping doesn’t mean you’re consenting to serious bodily injury or death. But those are risks you know you’re taking. The difference with abortion is that another human being is paying the ultimate price for the risks knowingly taken.
4. “Children should be wanted.” A recent Planned Parenthood ad features a slo-mo video of a beautiful baby girl. The baby’s adorable giggles are heard as she smiles at the camera and a music box lullaby plays in the background. Interspersed with the video are three written taglines: “She deserves to be loved”; “She deserves to be wanted”; “She deserves to be ... a choice.”
The message generated outrage: This beautiful child should be able to be killed unless she was planned. But all human beings have inherent worth, whether their parents “planned” them or not. And even if birth parents do not want their child, millions of Americans desperately want to adopt – yes, even children with disabilities. There are dozens of families seeking to adopt for every one child who is able to be adopted. Every child is “wanted” by someone.
5. “Pro-lifers only care about babies until they are born.” This trope gets trotted out when abortion advocates want to attack the motives or draw attention away from the concern of pro-life activists. But it is untrue. Pro-life pregnancy centers – and those who support them – provide resources for women and their babies both before and after the children are born.
6. “Making abortion illegal will only lead to back-alley abortions.” It is not widely known – although it should be – that the numbers of illegal abortions cited by NARAL Pro-Choice America and other abortion advocacy groups were inflated. Dr. Bernard Nathanson was one of the founders of NARAL who performed over 60,000 abortions before seeing ultrasound. Nathanson later admitted that the oft-cited “5,000 to 10,000 deaths from illegal abortions annually” statistic is a complete fabrication.
There is no doubt that women did die from illegal abortions. But they die today from legal abortions – another inconvenient fact that the pro-choice crowd glosses over.
There is talk that the current 5-4 majority in the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. But even if that occurs, states will be able to pass laws permitting abortions.
Ultimately, the problem is not a lack of laws but a lack of love. No law can make a woman love her child. No law removes the fear so many pregnant women feel with the prospect of an unplanned pregnancy, and what that may entail.
The resolution of those issues rests with us, not our legislators or judges.