The recent movement to de-fund Planned Parenthood raises some serious and troubling issues in my mind. I am not about to delve into the myriad, complex issues surrounding abortion. Indeed, it seems to me that the issue here really isn’t about abortion anyway and that the anti-abortion activists concede as much. After all, de-funding Planned Parenthood won’t affect abortion because federal funding of abortions was banned long ago.
The issue, then, must be framed as whether Planned Parenthood is to be punished (i.e. de-funded) because it “sold” fetal tissue,which is illegal. Planned Parenthood says any money it received were to cover expenses, something it has always done and which is not illegal.
My concern is this: As far as I am aware, Planned Parenthood has not been found guilty in a court of law of ever having sold fetal tissue. Further, Planned Parenthood has not had an opportunity to defend itself against the charges because no Congressional hearings have been held.
House Speaker John Boehner has said:
“I’ve seen these two videos,” Boehner said Thursday. “They’re gruesome and I think they’re awful. That’s why the Energy and Commerce Committee and Judiciary Committee are doing an investigation. I expect that we will have hearings, and the more we learn, the more it will educate our decisions in the future.”
Fine. But the Senate is voting TODAY at about 5:30 to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Why? Is it because a few senators are running for President? Hardly the American way, in my view, to deprive an organization of millions of dollars of funding, none of which goes to abortion services, without letting the organization give its side? Even Speaker Boehner recognizes this is wrong.
In a recent, cogent article, The Economist notes that “[t]he number of abortions performed each year in America has fallen by a third since 1990. Without Planned Parenthood it would be far higher.”
Most Americans, I think, believe that abortion should be, in President Clinton’s famous words, “safe, legal and rare.” If we are going to take action which could have any impact in this area, let’s first define the issues, study those issues, hear from the parties and experts and be certain the course chosen is not rife with unintended consequences. Simply acting on emotion based on a few surreptitiously recorded tapes might make for good politics in some circles but we can do better. We must do better.