Doctors are supposed to protect life. That’s why they are respected and trusted. And that’s why, when the story broke last month about doctors so callously and casually taking life — especially innocent, defenseless life — Americans were outraged.
“Flesh and blood, devoid of conscience,” declared one columnist.
The New York Times described the story as “cruel” and predicted that it would prompt much-needed “soul-searching” among those who promote, perpetuate and participate in the industry.
“This crosses an ethical line,” one PR firm gravely concluded.
Predictably, the story triggered protests outside medical facilities. “Murderer!” shouted one protester. The words “ROT IN HELL” were scrawled on a sign outside the offices of one of the accused.
But none of these people were writing about or protesting against the doctors employed by Planned Parenthood, who were caught on tape discussing ways to preserve the organs of aborted babies for commercial use. Instead, just days after those videos were released, America’s outrage was focused on Dr. Walter Palmer, a dentist who, allegedly, illegally hunted and killed a lion in Africa.
Defending the Indefensible
Don’t miss the point here: This is not a criticism of those who love animals and work to protect them. Animals are part of God’s creation, and how we treat them matters. As Proverbs 12 puts it, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animals.” But America’s outrage over the death of a lion and widespread defense of Planned Parenthood are hard to reconcile.
Here’s a tiny sampling of how some Americans are defending the indefensible. The New York Times attacked those who made the recording rather than those who were recorded, condemning the “propaganda campaign to misrepresent Planned Parenthood” and “a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary, and potentially lifesaving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal.”
The Associated Press took a different tack, explaining that there’s nothing new here, so there’s really no story: “Is using fetal tissue a new idea? Hardly. Scientists have worked with it since the 1930s.” In fact, AP breezily explained, “Tissue from elective abortions and miscarriages is used for a wide variety of purposes.”
The California attorney general launched an investigation — not of Planned Parenthood — but of the Center for Medical Progress “to see if the organization that made the videos violated registration or reporting requirements,” as AP reported.
Planned Parenthood’s president explained, without any sense of irony, “This is actually laudable, that women and their families choose to make fetal-tissue donations in order to potentially save the lives of other folks.” What a concept: ending lives to save lives. Condemning the videos as part of a “smear campaign,” the Planned Parenthood Clergy Advocacy Board heaped scorn on those responsible for “the decades-long campaign of harassment against Planned Parenthood.” According to these clergymen, Planned Parenthood is “doing God’s work.” And with such words, they lead readers into their Orwellian worldview.
Equally inexplicable, a White House spokesman dismissed the videos as “fraudulent.” The videos are many things — sickening, chilling, shocking and, yes, purposely intended to entrap and expose Planned Parenthood — but they are not fraudulent.
If anything, the unedited versions of the videos are worse than what was released to the public.
Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), matter-of-factly notes that post-abortion harvesting produces “anywhere from $30 to $100” per piece of tissue. She explains how she approaches each abortion with the organ customer’s needs “in the back of my mind” — noting how she carefully will “crush below” and “crush above” certain parts of a baby’s thorax to preserve high-demand organs. “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver,” she boasts. She adds, seemingly as if to show off, that knowing how to position the unborn child — “vertex presentation” or “breech presentation” — enables her to “evacuate an intact calvarium,” or skull.
Importantly, Nucatola is not bothered by making money from these morbid transactions; she’s concerned about the perceptions surrounding them: “Every provider has had patients who want to donate their tissue. … They just want to do it in a way that is not perceived as, ‘This clinic is selling tissue, this clinic is making money off of this.’ I know in the Planned Parenthood world they’re very, very sensitive to that.”
Dr. Mary Gatter, president of the PPFA Medical Directors’ Council, is less nuanced about the bottom line. “Why don’t you start by telling me what you’re used to paying?” she begins. She assures the client that “money is not the important thing,” but her follow-up comments belie that. “I want a Lamborghini,” she offers with a chuckle. And so she haggles over the cost of a “liver and thymus” and a brain hemisphere, noting that employing methods “with less suction” will “increase the odds that it will come out as an intact specimen.”
These stories from the summer of 2015, and America’s scrambled reactions to them, offer a snapshot of our nation’s conscience. And it isn’t pretty.
Believe, Pray, Teach, Vote
These stories from the summer of 2015, and America’s scrambled reactions to them, offer a snapshot of our nation’s conscience. And it isn’t pretty. There is something deeply wrong with a society that hysterically condemns the killing of a lion but callously commoditizes the killing of unborn children. This is where the slippery slope ends: a taxpayer-funded organization monetizing the organs of unborn children; physicians boasting about the best ways to end a baby’s life while preserving her organs; and clergy, major media outlets, and the White House defending it.
If the PPFA videos don’t strike a nerve inside the media or the White House, they should for those of us who wear the pro-life label. They are a grim reminder that we’re failing. Sure, abortion is not available in 89 percent of U.S. counties. Yes, 60 percent of Americans want abortion to be restricted or not permitted under any circumstance. And yes, Norma McCorvey, better known by her pseudonym “Jane Roe,” is now pro-life. But Roe continues to scythe through America, claiming 54 million unborn children since 1973. Another 2 million pregnancies have been ended by the abortion pill. Efforts to defund Planned Parenthood were blocked this month in the Senate. And PPFA’s doctors, fundraisers, lawyers, and administrators continue to make a living on death.
In these dispiriting days, the first thing we have to do in order to end this scourge is believe that it can be ended. Roe will not die if God’s people believe in its permanency more than His power.
So where does this leave us?
In these dispiriting days, the first thing we have to do in order to end this scourge is believe that it can be ended. Roe will not die if God’s people believe in its permanency more than His power. He has changed hearts before, and He can do it again. Consider the desperate plight of His people in Egypt, where Pharaoh killed baby boys with the same cold contempt for life. God heard the groaning of His people and ended the killing. Yet He did this in His own time.
If we believe, we must pray. We should pray for endurance. Opponents of slavery in the United States fought for almost a century. We should pray for unborn children and their parents, for frightened moms, for selfish dads, for embarrassed grandparents, for lawmakers and judges, for doctors and clinic workers. “The real business of your life as a saved soul,” Oswald Chambers once wrote, “is intercessory prayer.”
Third, we should use these videos as teachable moments, reasoning with those who are open to reason: If it’s repugnant to commoditize this or that animal, why is it OK to turn unborn human life into a harvest field? If we are to use our energies to rescue the weak and helpless species of our planet, shouldn’t that ethic of life also extend to the weakest and most helpless of our species?
Fourth, we should vote for life. Given the haunting poetry of scripture — “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” — voting for those who defend life and refusing to vote for those who defend the abortion status quo would seem to be the bare minimum. Let this be our guidepost, our true north, our bottom line at the ballot box: America must secure the last frontier of civil rights — the right to life for the weakest among us.
Toward that end, we must urge politicians to cut off funding for PPFA, which rakes in $528 million in government grants annually. Remember what’s not in dispute in this PPFA controversy: Planned Parenthood destroys a child while preserving her organs for resale. That’s what Planned Parenthood does — regardless of where its employees fix the price, regardless of whether it’s within the technical bounds of laws prohibiting the sale of human organs. Planned Parenthood is responsible for almost one-third of all abortions in America.
Fifth, we must take a stand in our own corners of the world. For some, that might mean standing up at work. A man I know used to sell medical supplies. When he discovered that his company was selling an instrument that had but one awful purpose — to speed the work of abortionists — he told his boss he would not sell the instrument, and then he went a step further. He told his boss the company shouldn’t either. He did the right thing, but it wasn’t too long before he was out of a job. What if health professionals, pharmacists, accountants, bankers, lawyers, fundraisers, and foundation executives took a similar stand for life?
Many of us work at places that allow a percentage of each paycheck to be donated to a designated charity. What if all of us made sure none of our resources went to Planned Parenthood or other groups that use euphemism to cloak what they do? And what if we instead donated our time, talents, and treasure to organizations that help young moms make the right decision? Crisis-pregnancy groups need money, diapers, baby food, clothes, and helping hands. And heaven knows America’s unborn children need these groups to rescue them from Roe. A woman I know was part of such a rescue. She befriended an unwed mother who was planning to have an abortion. With no money and no hope, the girl felt like she had no choice. But because someone cared, she found that there was hope — and she had her baby.
Of course, for some of us, taking a stand may mean adopting one of PPFA’s would-be victims. Paul reminds us that adoption is the way God brings us into His family. In other words, adoption is a powerful expression of love. In our age, it’s also a tangible blow against the abortion status quo, one that has immeasurable consequences in the here-and-now and the hereafter.
Speaking of the hereafter, we will not be held to account for failing to end abortion, but we will be held to account — each of us — for the character of the culture we’ve created.