• The Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle, Aug. 1
While the enduring debate over abortion — and the right of a woman to have one — will not end any time soon, there is finally one thing that all sides can wholeheartedly agree upon.
The procedure should not be considered a “business opportunity,” casually discussed by providers over lunch.
But this point of agreement, and the significant good that could come from it, is being casually tossed aside by those who have long been intent on eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Rather than demanding an investigation into the whole process of providing fetal tissue for medical research, understandably outraged abortion opponents are hellbent on one thing: stripping Planned Parenthood of more than $500 million in federal funding. Whether this effort is ultimately successful or not, it is shortsighted and wrong.
The videos that have surfaced, depicting Planned Parenthood employees discussing fetal tissue donation the way Pep Boys’ employees might talk about auto parts, are very disturbing. The callous tone of these videos, even though exacerbated by selective editing of the full video, is inexcusable.
But like so many other deplorable events, this one offers a real opportunity for positive change.
Planned Parenthood is not the only provider of abortions. If it disappeared tomorrow, abortions would still occur, and life-saving medical research using fetal tissue would continue. While the scientific community is searching for an alternative to fetal tissue, one has yet to be found.
The Planned Parenthood videos underscore the need for national discourse about the lack of oversight when it comes to buying and selling fetal tissue. Issues of pricing and profit, which hit at the heart of our country’s moral fabric, are being ignored. Suppliers of fetal tissue can legally make tens of thousands of dollars off some samples, obtained after being discarded by a hospital or other facility that performs abortion.
This is a “gray and musty” area according to the director of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.
A concerted effort to dust off these concerns and bring them into the light would be a testament to our nation’s humanity. It would remind people, like those in the Planned Parenthood videos, that this is not an issue to be considered without enormous gravity and respect. Parents who agonize over a decision to have an abortion, as well as people who are heartbroken when anyone chooses abortion, could take comfort in the knowledge that we — a capitalistic nation — have clear limits.
Instead, some opponents of abortion have responded to the videos by using them to heighten the furor over whether taxpayer dollars should fund Planned Parenthood. While the organization provides abortions, it is not allowed to use federal funding for this purpose. Instead, that money provides a broad range of women’s health care services, primarily to low-income females. This is where they go for prenatal and postpartum care, immunizations, breast and cervical cancer screenings, family planning, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
The debate over whether or not to cut funding for these services should center over issues such as the ability of these women to find and afford health care elsewhere.
Using the inflammatory videos as a way to skirt that essential debate — while avoiding serious discussion about the demand and supply of fetal tissue — will, in the end, likely end up hurting far more people than it will help.