Although it seems that the accusations Republicans make against Planned Parenthood are contested and the proof is not reliable enough to serve as absolute evidence we need to be objective and search for definitive answers. Are late term abortions resulting in live fetuses? Does Planned Parenthood leave all these fetuses alone to die? Does Planned Parenthood have a lucrative business peddling fetal body parts? That all of this evidence presented on video was gathered in stealth by enemies of Planned Parenthood and obviously timed to coincide with the Republican campaign to defund Planned Parenthood makes the claims look more than a bit suspect.
However, if these claims are true, and that is a very big if, then I believe we need to stop this practice now. If fetuses are born alive and viable they should be allowed to continue to live and women seeking a late term abortion should have to sign off on this. We are not so objective, scientific, and futuristic that we can view such practices without emotion. If we are discussing fetal tissue that does not come from a viable fetus then it seems smarter to use the tissue for valuable purposes rather than to just discard it. To act as if anyone who assists a woman in ending a pregnancy is a monster without human feelings is perhaps an effective deterrent for the gullible but it is not, of course, true.
We must admit that this campaign by anti-abortionists clearly seems well-designed to outrage us. Remember these people are totally dedicated to overturning Roe v Wade. If they win there is much for us to consider. Will abortion then become illegal once again? Of course it will. What will happen to women who manage to find a back alley abortion or self-abort? Will they be tried for murder? Will they be imprisoned? Who will look after any other children they might have? Think where we might be going with this.
I was impressed by Pope Francis. He does have a beneficent, friendly countenance and a contagious smile. But he does not speak to me as a woman nor does he speak to all but the very most privileged women. Here he matches that title Maureen Dowd gave him in the NYT this morning. He is a 19th century Pope. He longs for the old neighborhoods and thinks malls have only helped isolate us from each other. As I have lately been immersed in The Neopolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, I have not come away with a rosy view of poorer neighborhoods in Italy that actually did revolve around small family businesses. The residents were at each other’s throats as often as they offered each other support, or perhaps more often. Nostalgia for the past often has a patina that did not exist in real time.
So the Pope asked us to save the earth and I have no problem with that, but he asked women to become some sort of ideal vessels of human charity and paragons of family life. What about all of the wives who are mistreated by their husbands? What about all of the people whose genes cry out for a new normal. This Pope cannot and will not go far enough to accept a new dynamic because he is tied to the words of the Bible. Women in the Bible are described and preached about by men and there was no one in the early church to take a women’s perspective except the Mary’s. So I have to put aside the things the Pope says about women, although not necessarily about families. When a family functions well it is a social unit that has great value. When a family is a well of dysfunction I believe its members have a better chance for a good life if they are apart.
In a sense the Pope’s visit gave Republicans new ammunition in their ‘war on women’. I did not expect that even this Pope would go so far as to approve of abortion. I might have expected him to make some allowances for contraception given that he favors saving the earth. Instead he counsels people to have children. This might help restore family structure and it certainly gives people, both men and women, reasons to strive and succeed. But given a world population that is approaching 9 billion people it seems to neglect the long view and is at odds with his environmental message. Can we learn to value our lives if we are not parents? Can we see people in need around the globe as our children perhaps and try to make life more comfortable for everyone instead of reproducing? Perhaps that might make us feel less alone and expendable.
Republicans say that we should take the money we use to fund Planned Parenthood and use it to fund the local clinics that already exist. Here we need to also recall that the Republicans want to dismantle the Affordable Care Act which pays for many aspects of women’s reproductive health and family planning. Will these agencies give women options that still involve modern birth control? Will these agencies recommend the old ‘rhythm method’ that so obviously did not work? I assume that none of these clinics will help women have an abortion for any reason. Taking funding away from Planned Parenthood will mean that Roe v Wade is dead and it will not matter if it is still on the books because it will be impossible to find a provider. Local clinics also do not offer the anonymity that Planned Parenthood has offered to women. These clinics are run by your neighbors and have no national affiliation watching over the proprieties. Gossip happens. Women want to be assured that their private business is private.
If our goal is to become a truly enlightened and life-affirming society then we need to develop a system that supports girls and women through unwanted pregnancies without blame or job loss and makes arrangements for adoptions when necessary. Until then I still support Roe v Wade and I support Planned Parenthood and I believe them when they say that they do not use federal money to fund abortions.
By Nancy Brisson