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On Planned Parenthood

Political squabbling trivializes what should be a federal investigation.

By Gwen Thomas

A Planned Parenthood doctor was secretly taped casually discussing the harvesting, and possibly selling, of aborted baby’s organs. Chatting over a salad and wine, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the organization’s senior director of medical services, graphically describes how doctors can “crush” the right parts of the body during the abortion procedure in order to preserve some of the organs, and considers offering a “menu” of baby body parts to interested parties. She also describes a partial-birth abortion and says, “The federal abortion ban is a law…and laws are up to interpretation.”

The nonchalant discussion of these details is enough to make anyone’s stomach churn, but reactions from the liberal media are a garbled mess of mockery at conservatives’ alarm. A writer from Cosmopolitan said, “I’m just going to yawn.” Democrats like Rep. Barbara Lee dismissed the video, saying the Center for Medical Progress (the pro-life group that created the video) has been “attacking Planned Parenthood for years.”

The video in question, full of choppy editing and dramatic background music, slides, and anti-abortion rhetoric, undoubtedly is an attack on Planned Parenthood. Does that mean we should dismiss it entirely? Of course not. The sound bites that have surfaced are alarming and warrant a second look into Planned Parenthood’s behavior. We have an obligation to look into the claims and treat the situation as a criminal investigation, not just another blip on the abortion debate timeline.

It’s illegal to sell body parts for money. It’s also illegal to administer partial-birth abortions, according to law that passed in 2003 and held up by the Supreme Court in 2007. At the very least, we should be concerned about the possibility of medical malpractice. CNN points out, “doctors shouldn't change how they treat the patient in order to harvest good tissue for donation”, which it sure sounds like Nucatola is suggesting on the tape.

Because Planned Parenthood is federally funded, every citizen in America is involved in this issue. In 2013, $540.6 million dollars of taxpayer’s money went to the organization. While that money is specifically prohibited fromtowards funding abortions, it still supports the organization as a whole, making up almost half of their total funding. So John Boehner isn’t overreacting when he called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood in Congress. We need to know the details of the group we are supporting.

However, other members of the GOP have gone too far. Some Republican presidential candidates—Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and others—have called for defunding the entire organization, which shouldn’t happen based on the Center for Medical Progress’s video alone, because it presents no clear evidence of legal wrongdoing.

The same logic that demands we look into Planned Parenthood’s activity because of the released video also argues that we shouldn’t simply defund the organization without any real evidence they have committed crimes. Planned Parenthood does a great deal of public good, providing birth control, STD testing, and other health services, many of which aren’t even abortion related. To defund all of that without an investigation is unfair and a jump to conclusions fueled by ideology, not by sense.

If Planned Parenthood isn’t making any profits off their tissue donations or conducting illegal abortions, then they don’t have anything to hide. Citizens’ taxpayer money goes into this organization, so we have a right to inquire on their practices. And quite frankly, even if our money didn’t go into the organization, respect for upholding our own laws demands we look into this situation.

Politics will package this as the right trying to defund abortion clinics and the left as having no sensitivity towards unborn life. But you don’t have to be against legal abortions to be disturbed by the possibility of Planned Parenthood’s illegal behavior. Continuing to see this issue as pro-life against pro-choice downplays the potential criminal activity involved. If we make this a political topic, if we allow Planned Parenthood’s advocates to dismiss the attacks on them as right-wing nonsense, then we aren’t taking our responsibility to uphold our own country’s laws seriously.

I hope Planned Parenthood isn’t involved in the terrible acts it is being accused of. But until we know, how can we confidently endorse or denounce Planned Parenthood? How can we feel ethically about continuing to fund Planned Parenthood with taxpayer money?

“These groups have been widely discredited and their claims fall apart on closer examination, just as they do in this case,” Planned Parenthood said in their defense. For our nation’s sake, let’s hope the Planned Parenthood is conducting itself “under the highest ethical and legal standards” like they say they are, but let’s not just take their word for it. If the video’s claims do turn out to be true, defunding is still an inappropriate reaction. If Planned Parenthood is committing crimes, they deserve more than a lack of federal money—they deserve to be jailed.

Gwen Thomas ’17 is an English concentrator in Dunster House.

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