Rector’s Reflection – August 2, 2015

The country has been abuzz over the revelation that Planned Parenthood has sold – and evidently continues to sell – body parts of aborted fetuses to medical research companies for their potential to find cures for diseases or for their usefulness in the ever-expanding field of organ transplants. For me, there were two really troubling issues in this exposé: the ‘procedures’ themselves and the chilling callousness of the executives from Planned Parenthood who were caught on tape.

Several people have asked what my opinion of this is. Short answer: it is reprehensible. But my answer has evolved over the span of my life. When Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, this young feminist was delighted. Oh, heck yes, a woman can do what she wants with her body. The patriarchal hegemony can’t tell me what to do. I bought all the rhetoric of “women have always gotten abortions, so this ruling simply provides safe and sanitary ‘procedures’, etc., etc., etc.” I scoffed at the protesters. I objected to legislators (mostly men!) attempting to rein in this enlightened and emancipating ‘procedure.’

And then something happened with a friend of mine. She was advised to get a therapeutic abortion, but her doctor (the one who gave the advice) refused to perform the ‘procedure’ on religious grounds, so I went with her to one of the clinics in Montgomery for her ‘procedure.’ That afternoon changed my life.

I now tell people that I have come 178 from my original ‘anytime, anywhere’ stance. I acknowledge that there are certain situations for which abortion may be the ultimate decision, but it is never a good decision… it is simply the least bad of two difficult choices. It is the classic permanent solution to a temporary problem.

It is this evolution in my viewpoint that leads me to my evaluation of Planned Parenthood’s activity as reprehensible. Actually, from its inception, Planned Parenthood has not been the champion of women that it holds itself out to be, but that’s another conversation. Terms like ‘right to choose’ and ‘pro-choice’ have always masked the reality of what happens during a ‘procedure’ which Planned Parenthood performs one third of a million times a year. Crushing a calvarium seems pretty benign until you understand it’s a Latin word for skull. All this is bad enough, but to factor in the sale of body parts is, for me, beyond human.

But some may ask, “What about the cures for diseases like Altzheimer’s or AIDS or cancer or diabetes that might be derived from the research with these body parts? After all, people opt to become organ donors and some people leave their bodies to science. I mean, do we just toss out the residue of a ‘procedure’?”

There’s nothing like throwing in a deadly disease or two to flesh out an ends justify the means argument. Who could possibly be against that? Well, I can. I do not think fetal body parts should be sold like fresh produce (of course, if the fetus has given informed consent, that’s another matter) nor should they be tossed out. They should be afforded a decent burial as other human beings are afforded.

So yes… it’s reprehensible.

But I just can’t end this reflection without mentioning another incident that has the country abuzz simultaneously with Planned Parenthood… and getting more media attention, I might add: the killing of Cecil the lion by a Minnesota dentist. Protests and death threats and sorrow, oh my!

OK, that might sound a wee bit cavalier for me to seem to brush this off as a non-event. I admit, I have no idea why people want to travel to far-off continents and kill large animals that haven’t ever done anything to them. And it certainly was a big event for Cecil.

For the life of me, however, I cannot understand the wailing and gnashing of teeth over killing an animal and the silence over Planned Parenthood, both its ‘procedures’ and baby sales. But I do have a theory. Cecil has a name. How much more worked up do people get when there’s a name? “He killed Cecil” prompts exponentially more outrage than “He killed a lion.” Perhaps if all those fetuses had had names we could repeat…

Oh, but wait; they did. Hear the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”