On the question of abortion, the age of abstraction is over. The contest between those who favor an unfettered right of choice and those who champion a fundamental right to life has long bobbed behind word clouds – themes like “women’s health” and “reproductive care.” Now with the release of several videos showing Planned Parenthood officials blithely discussing late-term abortions and organ harvesting, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has dissipated the clouds and revealed the human faces at the core of this debate.
It will never be the same.
The human face that haunts me most is the one described by a whistle-blower in the seventh video. Under obvious strain, Holly O’Donnell, an employee of one of the tissue brokers partnering with Planned Parenthood, describes a clinic employee coaxing her to help remove the brain of an unborn child whose heart had been beating even after the abortion. The employee “takes the scissors and makes a small incision right here [O’Donnell gestures under her chin] and goes, I would say, to maybe a little bit through the mouth … She gave me the scissors and told me that I have to cut down the middle of the face. I can’t even, like, describe what that feels like.”
Well, Holly, no one can. If the CMP videos prove anything, it is that the abortion procedure not only ends the life of a fellow human being and wounds the mother who has one, it also changes those who perform it and those who process what remains. Watching Dr. Deborah Nucatola casually sip wine and chat about what she can do to “crush above” and “crush below” the thorax to preserve intact organs, to hear senior medical official Mary Gatter refer to using a “less crunchy” method to preserve those same parts, is to witness the crushing of the human spirit that follows in abortion’s wake.
Can anyone imagine how a young physician devoted to caring for women, to “doing no harm” in the phrase of the Hippocratic Oath, became this callous? Such is the stupefying effect of rationalization that once-idealistic doctors no longer comprehend the brutality they are defending. Video after video reveals how widespread this emotional distancing has become for purveyors of late-term abortion and those who support them.
Consider the exchange between House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Yale Law professor Priscilla Smith during the first congressional hearing on the videos and practices in question. Reading from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s dissent in Stenberg v. Carhart, Goodlatte quoted the testimony of notorious late-term abortionist Dr. Leroy Carhart. In many cases of D&E dismemberment abortion, Carhart said, “the fetus in many cases dies, just as a human adult or child would – it bleeds to death.” Goodlatte then asked Ms. Smith, “Do you believe this is a humane way to die?” After a brief back and forth, Smith finally said that yes, a D&E procedure is very humane.
Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jensen, two women who survived failed abortions as infants, were sitting within inches of Ms. Smith when she called this gruesome technique humane. Did not their equal humanity occur to her?
The CMP videos and the abortion lobby’s reflexive defense are not unveiling a new reality. This is what the dehumanization of children before birth has cost us. The United States is one of only seven nations on Earth that allows elective abortion after five months of pregnancy. The majority of other developed nations impose limits at 12 weeks of pregnancy. I believe that Americans would do so too, given the chance. Moreover, women favor protective legislation at a higher rate than men. According to an analysis by Aaron Blake for The Washington Post, as many as 71 percent of women favor limiting abortion to earlier than 20 weeks.
When Congress passes the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which it will surely do someday soon, it will not only be preventing the infliction of terrible pain on the unborn but averting the pain abortion inflicts on millions of women. It will mean that the harvesting of livers, hearts, thymus and brain will also be limited. And it will also draw long-overdue attention to the emergence of life-affirming biotechnologies like induced pluripotent stem cells, cord blood stem cells, and other resources that are today’s workhorses for medical treatments and cures undreamed of just two decades ago. We will then regard the taking and trading of innocent human life as a Faustian bargain we can no longer afford to tolerate or pretend does not exist.
Congressional hearings are just the beginning of the investigation into Planned Parenthood’s heartless practices. It may be too much to believe that Planned Parenthood can change, but if abortionists like Anthony Levatino and the late Bernard Nathanson can turn the corner and embrace the sanctity of life, Planned Parenthood personnel can do so as well. That is our ultimate hope. Let’s leave the slogans and slurs behind. Women need and desire something better than a publicly funded engine of destruction and death. The age of abstraction is over.