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Dear Planned Parenthood:
You’re clearly no stranger to the fact that abortion is a contentious social issue that carries with it some of the most divisive and strongly worded rhetoric — tough language that offers a lens into how splintered our society truly is on the matter.
After all, your critics call you “murderers” and you often respond by labeling your opponents anti-abortion “extremists.” One side wants to see abortion restricted or outlawed; the other — your side — is seemingly so devoted to the cause that you take few steps toward advocating restrictions on the procedure, even when it comes to gruesome late-term abortions.
In discussing the issue on your website, you tell visitors “a woman has many decisions to make when considering abortion,” yet the biggest of those considerations — how to cope with the loss of human life — is just barely addressed. You routinely refer to abortion as “women’s healthcare,” yet fail to acknowledge that another human life is involved in the process.
Sure, you mention possible referrals for women who experience raw emotions after an abortion and admit that some women “feel anger, regret, guilt, or sadness for a little while” afterward, but maintain that “most women ultimately feel relief after an abortion.”
The loss of life — regardless of where people stand on abortion — certainly deserves more attention. At the core of the matter, there’s the issue of truth and the failure to call an unborn child what it is: a baby. Bizarrely, there seems to be a blatant refusal to address the fact that the unborn are, at the least, alive, falsely diminishing their status.
The closest mention of a “baby” I was able to find in the abortion information provided on your site came with two mentions of a “fetus.” One ironically read, “In later second-trimester procedures, you may also need a shot through your abdomen to make sure that the fetus’s heart stops before the procedure begins.” And another mention cautioned women that they could experience emotional fallout if they “terminate a wanted pregnancy because (their) health or the health of (their) fetus is in danger.”
With all of this in mind, I simply have to ask: Where’s the lament?
Perhaps the most infamous and disturbing example to come from the Planned Parenthood realm — one that necessitates these questions being asked — emerged in undercover videos in which a Planned Parenthood doctor is seen eating a salad and drinking wine while discussing which parts of unborn fetuses she would avoid crushing in order to keep them in tact; it was truly heartbreaking to observe.
Imagine "life in a magical land where abortions and birth control are free and plentiful" This place exists. https://t.co/zdEYnLF0oT
— Planned Parenthood (@PPact) December 13, 2015
That’s an extreme example, but it gets to the heart of this letter and my curiosity surrounding why it’s seemingly so hard for you to admit that a life is a life. I think S.E. Cupp said it best in a 2015 column about that aforementioned video: “In their zeal to make abortion culturally acceptable to a religious and center-right country, abortion supporters removed a necessary and important stigma that should exist so that teenagers weigh the consequences of sex, and so that women think very carefully about taking the lives of their unborn children. I am certain many women do, but that’s not thanks to Planned Parenthood’s cavalier sales pitches.”
It didn’t take long after the video’s release for your leader, Cecile Richards, to apologize for the tone of the video (she also dismissed the claim Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of fetal tissue).
“In the video, one of our staff members speaks in a way that does not reflect that compassion,” Richards said at the time. “This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements. As always, if there is any aspect of our work that can be strengthened, we want to know about it, and we take swift action to address it.”
I certainly have some ideas on the compassion front (you could start by acknowledging a fetus is actually a human life). But before I continue: The purpose of this letter isn’t to rail on with pro-life talking points — or to even engage in the battle over abortion itself. Rather, I’m continuously confounded by the apparent refusal to speak openly and honestly about what happens during an abortion.
Clearly, a heart is being stopped; undoubtedly, a life is being ended. Yet, the language attempts to gloss over that.
Just as much as screaming “murderer” at every person who enters an abortion clinic — or failing to acknowledge all of the complexities that come with pregnancy and the thereafter — amounts to an incredibly unhelpful scenario, so does muddying facts and ignoring language that exposes the truth behind what happens when an abortion is performed.
Words matter. And using terms like “fetus” to describe an unborn baby is simply strange, but I get it. It makes it easier to emotionally process what’s happening. But should it be so easy? Should we ignore the raw and moral ramifications that emerge when we willingly choose to stop a heartbeat?
When your staff at Planned Parenthood or anyone else talks about educating women about their options and essential information, how is it that the truth becomes so intentionally unclear? And sure, I’m a man. I know — and understand — that I can’t possibly comprehend every one of the complexities that surround pregnancies and the difficult situations that women sometimes find themselves in.
That said, as a journalist who intensely covered the Dr. Kermit Gosnell murder trial, seeing gruesome and horrific courtroom photos — and as a human being who stands for life — I absolutely can call on all of us to use truthful and accurate language when discussing the issue.; that’s the least you (and we) can do.
Let’s be clear: I’m not asking you to change your position on abortion; what I’m asking for is honesty. When a fetus has a detectable heartbeat just a few weeks after conception or seen moving around during a sonogram, how does one walk away calling that unborn being anything other than a baby — or, at the least, something that’s alive?
The pro-choice movement — and Planned Parenthood in particular — would do itself justice to honestly address the issues at hand, but, more importantly, to push back against the either willful or accidental detachment from reality and desensitization that has infested your side of the abortion debate. Why not lament the loss of life? Doing so would go a long way toward actually having a real and relatable discussion about the issue.
If you have to stop a heartbeat to perform a procedure, that should at least cause some moral pause, no? Again, I’m not asking that you change your views, but I am asking for an acknowledgement that abortion is an act that terminates a life. What holds you back from simply admitting as much?
Showing lament over the loss of life is the natural human reaction to, well, the loss of life. And considering the effort that Planned Parenthood Action Fund has put into railing against attempts at implementing 20-week abortion bans, one would assume that asking for some compassion for the other individual (the unborn one) in the mix would be appropriate.
In fact, I think doing so would add something profoundly beneficial into the mix: the truth.
It doesn’t help that there appears to be an effort to not only normalize — but to praise — abortion. Richards seemingly did just that in an interview with the Daily Iowan this past election season.
“For too many years, certainly for my generation, all issues about sex and sexuality were stigmatized. Abortion was, homosexuality was. And the exciting thing to me now is that young people are telling their stories and they are living out loud,” she said. “More women are telling their abortion stories, and I told mine. I think once we get out of the shadows, and I think the LGBT movement has led the way in this, it normalizes what should be an open and honest conversation.”
She’s also called to “humanize” abortion, but why shouldn’t we also humanize the unborn people involved in the process?
One portion of one side might want to ban abortion entirely, but the opposing cohort on the other side can’t seem to find an abortion restriction they agree with, which seems curious and morally problematic. Meanwhile, most Americans — including the majority of pro-choicers — have been more than open to some restrictions.
I’m simply seeking just a little compassion — and accuracy.
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