In an op-ed last week in the Washington Post, Cecile Richards goes out of her way to evade the whole question of the current controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood.
Yes, we get it. We recognize the standard talking points. Planned Parenthood wants us to believe they provide indispensable health services, and that we in the pro-life movement want to stop that. Again, they are the victims and we are the villains.
Notice what you do not find in Cecile’s article: any mention of the term “body parts” or of the brains, hearts, livers and other organs that Planned Parenthood harvests and sells. Yet we see these parts of pre-born children so clearly in the most recent video.
Consistent with Planned Parenthood’s overall view of morality, Ms. Richards thinks that what is offensive in this whole episode is the “tone that was used” in the taped conversations with Planned Parenthood doctors. In other words, she sees no reason to be upset with the fact that lungs and eyes, livers and spinal columns are being harvested and assigned a price tag. That’s just “medical and scientific conversation” in her view. If only one would just talk about these things with a more compassionate tone, the American people would continue to rally around and cheer Planned Parenthood.
Why, then, did even Hillary Clinton reveal that she found images from these videos to be disturbing? Is she, too, disturbed only by the “tone” of what is going on?
Cecile Richards — and the Planned Parenthood enterprise she leads — is disconnected from the American public, and from the nature of the outrage being expressed across the country and around the world. We are not upset about the tone of a conversation. Nor is the apparent illegality of the actions of Planned Parenthood clinics, in selling the body parts and changing the abortion procedure to obtain better specimens, the primary cause.
It is, rather, the simple fact, which neither Planned Parenthood nor Cecile Richards denies, that the hearts and lungs, the legs and brains, the eyes and livers of babies are being harvested and given a price tag. The American people do not see this as something to be proud of. They don’t oppose research. But neither would they cut up their children in order to advance it. The American people still have enough of a conscience to recognize that the end does not justify the means, and that morality is about more than “tone.”
The moral analysis provided by Planned Parenthood, furthermore, contains the assertion that the harvesting of the body parts is done in just a small fraction of its facilities. In other words, if morally offensive — not to mention potentially illegal — activity is only practiced once in a while, and you do good the rest of the time, you should get a pass.
I am a Catholic priest and am, along with everyone I know, appalled at the actions of some priests who have been guilty of abusing children. But never for a moment would I or the government or public opinion accept the argument that because the vast majority of what these priests did was good, generous work, or because only a small fraction of the priests in the Church are guilty of such activity, that these priests and the Church should get a pass on the whole matter. On the contrary, the issue is not the percentage of bad activity to good, but rather the nature of the bad activity in and of itself, and the fact that it has to be prevented.
The op-ed by Cecile Richards repeats the same points she made in her television interview with George Stephanopoulos. We can expect Planned Parenthood to continue to echo these points in future interviews and op-eds, when they deign to comment. They will toot their own horn and make their own moral analysis, but it’s just not persuasive.
Father Frank Pavone is the author of Abolishing Abortion, to be published by Thomas Nelson on Aug. 18.