Thursday, August 27, 2015


Anyone who follows me on Instagram probably saw this post from Tuesday night:

Here is the promised blog entry.

So for those who don't know, here's what's going on. I won't get into all the details--I encourage you to research on your own. But the reader's digest version is this: A conservative pro-life group called Center for Medical Progress recently went undercover and shot a bunch of surveillance type videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal tissue for medical research. They edited and released the videos, and everyone freaked out and then the governor of Utah decided that Planned Parenthood should stop receiving federal funds.

So on Tuesday, activists gathered on the front steps of the state capitol to show their support for Planned Parenthood with a press conference, a rally, speakers, signs and banners, and letters to the governor. And here's why I went and stood with Planned Parenthood too.

1. Because the Center for Medical Progress is less trustworthy than Planned Parenthood. 

Maybe I'm a little biased here. But I've done a lot of research, and here's what I've found.

After a lot of investigation, it seems that the Center for Medical Progress did some deceptive editing of their videos, which included everything from possibly fabricating specific statements, to using photographs of stillborn children without their parents' knowledge or consent.

Five states have completed investigations into Planned Parenthood's practices and have found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Furthermore, even if one or two executives of Planned Parenthood seem cavalier, they do not represent the organization as a whole.

And finally, you know...a "sting" like this one seems an awful lot like entrapment. Which, to me, seems just as worthy of ethical examination as abortion.*

2. Because fetal tissue research has improved the lives of millions. 

The idea of aborted fetal tissue being used for medical research might make you feel a little squeamish. That's okay. The idea of an IV makes me feel like I'm going to vomit.** But that feeling alone isn't enough to justify withholding federal funds.

Fetal tissue research has provided huge strides in developing treatment for AIDS, spinal cord injuries, molecular degeneration, and cancer. It has been key to developing vaccines for polio, rubella, varicella (chicken pox), Hepatitis A, ebola, and other diseases.

The process of obtaining fetal tissue through abortions is filled with checks and balances. A woman must finalize her decision to abort before tissue donation is discussed. The fetal tissue must be donated with the knowledge and consent of the patient. No financial profit can be made--any costs are associated with the storage and transportation of tissue. And, this is going to sound harsh or cold-hearted, but the reality is that fetal tissue donation makes good and positive and life-improving use of tissue that would otherwise simply be disposed of.

3. Because the issue of abortion is complicated. 

From an LDS perspective, abortion is actually kind of a complicated issue. The Church's official stance is that abortion isn't okay EXCEPT in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is endangered. So...I see the Church's stance as sort of "limited pro-choice." In general, Church members are strongly discouraged from seeking abortions, but there are special cases in which it may be appropriate.

I don't think abortion will ever be a clear-cut issue as long as the point at which an embryo or a fetus becomes a "human being" is unclear. From an LDS perspective, the doctrine doesn't specify. The closest we have is a quote from Brigham Young, saying that the spirit enters the child's body when the mother feels it does. Which implies that it happens at a different time for every fetus. Which doesn't give any guidance as to when abortions should or shouldn't happen.

The sanctity of life is something I take very seriously. But that also includes the sanctity of a woman's life.

4. Because Planned Parenthood does amazing and important work. 

I am pro-choice. Please note that I am not necessarily pro-abortion. I do not think abortion should be used as a form of birth control. But Roe vs. Wade (the legalization of abortion in the US) was not the beginning of women getting abortions. It was the end of women dying from unregulated abortions. Abortion has existed since the beginning of recorded history. As long as unplanned or unwanted pregnancies exist, women will seek ways to abort. Providing safe and affordable and legal options keeps more women alive and healthy.

Here's what it truly comes down to. Know what causes abortions? (Hint: The answer is not access to abortions.) Unwanted and unplanned pregnancies. And know what causes unwanted and unplanned pregnancies? Lack of education. Lack of counseling. Lack of access to healthcare. Lack of access to birth control.

Abortion would be way less of an issue if we focused on comprehensive sex education, including consent, contraception, and the emotional factors of sex.

Abortion would be way less of an issue if we made contraception widely available and widely affordable. Telling people who can't afford it to "get a better job" or "get a better education" or "get better insurance" or "stop having sex" is ignoring the complexity of poverty and denying human beings reasonable and basic human desires.

Planned Parenthood provides all of the things that reduce unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. It is an organization that provides healthcare, counseling, advocacy, education, and outreach at little or no cost to the community members it serves. Medicaid, WIC, school health classes, and/or home environments cannot adequately replace this. Assuming that they can is a demonstration of privilege that not everyone has.

That's why I was there Tuesday night. That's why I sign petitions and write letters and blog. Because Planned Parenthood does so much good for so many people. To me, that's worth saving. And I'm glad that it's worth saving to at least 300 other Utahans, too.

* I'm not saying that entrapment is the same thing as abortion or the sale of fetal tissue. I'm just saying that both of them should be questioned, ethically speaking. 

** Again, I'm not saying IVs and aborted fetus tissue research are the same thing. I'm referring to the actual physical feeling of nausea that both might induce. 


Kjerstin said...

This is such a sane and compassionate perspective. I'm glad you went to support them.

Brandilyn said...

Hey. You're smart and thoughtful and articulate, and I appreciate that in contrast to a lot of the hateful, uninformed stuff I've seen thrown around from both sides of this argument. I agree with you point by point here and the thought of PP's services being taken away makes me sad and frustrated. I know everyone (on both sides!) really, truly thinks they're doing and supporting the right thing, but...this logic just makes sense to me. Thanks for putting yourself out there. I love ya.

Annie McNeil said...

People can have whatever moral issues they want with abortion. But those morals cannot and should not be legislated. Bodily sovereignty must be an unalienable right. No one can be forced to donate so much as a pint of blood, even if it would save another (fully-developed, conscious, breathing) person's life. Consent must be given before life-saving organs can be harvested from the bodies of the deceased. When corpses have more rights than pregnant people, there is a big problem.