For decades, I believed that displaying grisly photographs of aborted babies was the wrong way to make the pro-life case. Disturbing images, I thought, would only repel viewers, not persuade them. I now think I was wrong.
There are many ways to make an argument. The Center for Medical Progress has demonstrated that a 2 x 4 has its uses. These videos, precisely because they are graphic, shatter the complacency and denial that are essential for a regime of mass violence to proceed. They undermine the reassuring fiction that birth is a bright moral line. Five seconds before the baby emerges, it has no moral worth. Five seconds after — all moral worth. That is untenable logically and pitiless psychologically.
No one who has a passing familiarity with man’s inhumanity to man can be completely surprised that people who consider themselves humane can pull bags of body parts out of the freezer and pick through hands, eyes, lungs and hearts on a light tray.
As the footage was released, defenders of Planned Parenthood rushed to explain that many medical procedures are grisly. Writing in The New Republic, Dr. Jen Gunter protests, “These are not ‘baby parts.’ Whether a woman has a miscarriage or an abortion, the tissue specimen is called ‘products of conception.'” Oh. If they’re not baby parts, why are they valuable for research and sale? CNN’s Errol Louis insisted, “Most of us would freak out if we listened to professionals … discuss details of how a dying person’s request to have their body parts donated … actually gets carried out.” No, we wouldn’t. It isn’t the gore that causes us to recoil; it’s the intentional killing. It’s knowing that if the abortionist’s hand were stayed for just a few more weeks, that child could live out his whole life.
Following the release of the first video, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, blindsided and unaware of what was still to come, apologized for Dr. Deborah Nucatola’s tone. Nucatola is the director of medical services who spoke of “less crunchy” techniques and getting intact “calvariums” (heads) and other organs. Euphemisms are as critical to Planned Parenthood’s work as forceps, and as the other videos are demonstrating, pretty much everyone in that business adopts the same breezy tone about “products of conception.” They are so callous that they don’t recognize the gut-punch impact of a clinic worker casually noting that one of the samples was “a twin” or “a boy.”
Another key fiction these videos retire definitively is that second-trimester abortions are vanishingly rare.
As a Planned Parenthood employee assures the filmmakers, one clinic alone does 40 to 50 “procedures” (euphemism again) per month on 16- to 22-week-old fetuses.
At 23 weeks gestation, according to the March of Dimes Foundation, the chances of survival outside the womb are about 17 percent. By 26 weeks, the chances are 80 percent. Just three weeks’ difference. When a pregnancy ends in miscarriage after 20 weeks, many states require a fetal death certificate. These rules do not apply when the death is intentional. Strange.
The most hardened abortion supporter (and we see that they are very hard) agrees that when the mother or both parents of a “product of conception” want that “product,” the loss of a pregnancy is a tragedy. Who would be so cruel as to deny that the parents of a 23-week-old baby should have a funeral and burial if they request it?
The logic of Planned Parenthood is that human dignity and membership in the human family is completely contingent on the feelings of others, specifically mothers. Never mind that millions of couples wait impatiently for the chance to adopt infants. (There are even waiting lists to adopt Down syndrome children.)
Well, reply the abortion absolutists, such as the Sexual Health and Reproductive Justice group, adoption is not a “universal alternative” to abortion. Some women who place their babies for adoption do so with a “heavy heart.” Yes, and some women who have abortions grieve for years. But subjective feelings are irrelevant to human decency. People who care for parents suffering from Alzheimer’s and other disabilities also have mixed feelings. They would not be human if they didn’t sometimes wish for the ordeal to come to a rapid end. Such feelings, however intense they may be, do not justify violence.
Planned Parenthood’s defenders, including Hillary Clinton, stand exposed for their radicalism and evasion. Abortion, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren put it last week, is “the most difficult decision a woman will make in her entire life.” There’s the core dishonesty: If it’s a “product of conception” and not a baby, why is it so difficult?
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Mona Charen is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.