I want to make clear from the outset that I honestly could not care less if Planned Parenthood is defunded or shut down or whatever this wacky Congress would like to do. Have at it. I also think that whoever was caught on camera being blithe about sensitive issues should be terminated and there should be some oversight to how a government-run, taxpayer-funded institution is run. What needs to be pointed out is this gnawing penchant for political activists—both on the Left and the Right (this time it is the Right) to go off half-cocked and just make shit up to support its agenda. The anti-gun lobby has done it repeatedly after every shooting that occurs in this country (and Lord knows it is daily and insane and speaks more about us than the weapons used, but that is for another column) or the recently hyped Black Lives Matter movement that moves from shedding light on a serious issue of racist practices by an inordinately large number of police killing unarmed black men to an all-out assault on police in general.
If you’ve read just one paragraph of this space since 1997, you would know I have no problem with people getting riled up about a cause. And I think if you are even remotely familiar with my work you also know it is not acceptable to create your own facts in the fervent pursuit of your passion. This is the most dangerous area of our discourse, always has been. It takes us from “I disagree with his policies” to “he’s Hitler,” which is more irrational, sub-mental hyperbole than making shit up, but the journey is the same. This problem is further exacerbated when purported news outlets like the pathetically inauthentic FOX NEWS/MSNBC cabal take a story that really doesn’t exist and make it one. It’s one thing for citizens, activists, protestors, lobbyists, or paid political pundits (including the radio host goofballs) to spin their own “truths,” but when supposed journalists not only work fast and loose with facts but blurt out-and-out lies as news, things take on a kind of Alice in Wonderland aura.
Okay, so the biggest problem pro-life crowd has with Planned Parenthood is its safe and convenient (and legal) taxpayer-funded locations to provide abortions for women who decide to go that route (pro-choice). In fact, PP is the number-one enemy of the pro-lifers to the point where, for instance, petitions for mayors, congressmen and governors to close these (perfectly legal) locations are a key to elections. In the past decade many Republican officials have been skirting national law and passing laws to curtail the effectiveness of PP on the state level on the accepted assumption that PP is an abortion factory, when in fact the percentage of abortions to the other specifically women’s health provisions account for about three percent or 328,000 of the group’s nearly 10.6 million services provided last year. And although I support the right for those who oppose abortion to try the political route (as opposed to killing doctors) to advance their agendas, I also do not support a systemic flouting of law for “moral” reasons. Once again, though, this is a subject for another column—one I have written at least a dozen or more times.
The meager (when compared to the ridiculous amount of money thrown at useless murdering like the U.S. military) $528 million is about 40 percent of its annual budget, less than pennies to individual taxpayers. Yet, the federal defunding (states can and do provide a sizable sum) of the other 97 percent of PP’s services will adversely affect its usefulness. So while overreacting to make an ideological point, it ends up doing greater damage to nearly 2.7 million women that need PP for non-abortion related care. In an approaching election year, this kind of reactionary nonsense seduces political suicide for Republicans, who already have problems looking like they are perpetually waging social war on women.
And so once videos of PP officials casually describing in detail the “selling” of aborted fetus parts donated legally by the mothers, the pouncing began. The “outrage” singles out the profiting of this ghoulish practice and the horrors of not only the inhumane practices, but the entire idea of PP being some kind of underground human trafficking scheme.
The problem with this is none of it is true. Not a word. PP has for years provided a service to use aborted fetal tissue with written consent of the parents to scientific research for a myriad of diseases and never profits from it. The money causally discussed in the videos (which is a matter of decorum not criminality) subsidizes the preservation and transportation of said tissue, and in most cases these funds are reimbursed. While some may find this appalling, it is no different than you donating your organs to science or to save lives after you’re gone. The spectacularly irresponsible narrative that PP is coldly cashing in on this is a fantasy concocted by overzealous activists that count on you being ignorant to the facts at hand.
The bigger problem with wildly disseminating misinformation and the orchestrated fabrication of all this leads to government officials, presidential candidates, and members of Congress hinting at “investigations,” which like most investigations will end up costing taxpayers more money than the actual funding of an institution and will need nowhere, because there is no crime or story here. The story should be that people who oppose abortion will use any measure, however fanciful and inaccurate, to advance their agenda. And perhaps the most glaring problem will come if Congress decides to shut the federal government down over this straw man (and the sad fact is almost all of these politicians know this is trumped up bullshit, but pursue it to gather favor and potential votes), which will cost us 50 times what we’re discussing here, if we’re so worried about money.
Believe what you will about pro-life or pro-choice, but here are the facts; a woman’s right to choose is protected by law, Planned Parenthood is a legally run women’s health institution that provides useful services to millions of patients annually, and while people with agendas may live by their own versions of truth, none of it alters the first two. And while anti-abortion activists do not hold a patent on making shit up, they are in this case very much making shit up.