Misplaced Outrage and Dead Baby Parts

While the kerfuffle around Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the false reports about its supposed selling of dead baby parts doesn't deal directly with my writing or my books, it does deal directly with the raw material from which my stories arise.

Not long after the release by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) of that first inflammatory video, we knew that it had been recorded secretly under false pretenses and had been heavily edited to garner the juiciest bits for public horrification and to imply financial gain by PPFA.

Then it became known that CMP had been plotting its unethical actions for some time. Then it turned out that the addresses associated with CMP are, in fact, just postal drops. And, lo and behold, there are no scientists or physicians engaged in advancing medical treatments associated with it, despite its name. You can read more about CMP's history of anti-abortion efforts and the various law suits pending against it.

But what's fascinating me isn't the attempted entrapment or the byzantine machinations of the CMP, as bad as they are. No; as an author, what fascinates me is our reaction to the story.

It's easy to see the line between the people who have supported and who continued to support PPFA and what it stands for, and those who claim to be horrified and outraged by what they believe to be true (even though it isn't). But I want to expose the real reason the line exists.

In some cases, like that of Republican presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson, the blatant hypocrisy is easily exposed; despite his objections to the supposed news about PPFA, he's on record for using "two fetuses aborted in the ninth and 17th week of gestation” to further his own research. Not only do his objections about PPFA fly directly in the face of his own medical background, but also they represent a blatant vote-getting attempt.

For the horrified reactions of others, there is at least a little basis for credibility. Or there was, until the lies told by CMP became known. Now the battle lines have shifted. On one side are the people who have always supported PPFA as well as those who've educated themselves about the truth of CMP's false assertions. On the other side? People who want to be horrified, and people who want those people to vote for them—for example, people like Dr. Ben Carlson, though he's hardly alone.

So what's really going on here? Let's strip away the frills and see what's left. The outrage claims to be about what's happening to the organs and tissues of aborted fetuses—that would be medical treatments and research; replacement organs for infants born in desperate need of them; tissues and stem cells used to defeat the true horrors of diseases that have plagued humankind for millennia.

How many of these outraged people would refuse a heart transplant needed by themselves or a loved one? How many would refuse transplanted eyes for their own infant, born blind with underdeveloped eyes? How many would turn down life-saving treatments or medications that we know about only because of research with fetal tissue and stem cells?

I can hear one of the outraged say, "That heart was donated by someone who decided to give it up!" Not necessarily. Sometimes the surviving spouse is the one to make this decision, not the deceased. Now I hear, "But we're talking about babies!" Well, we're taking about fetuses that would probably but not necessarily develop into healthy babies, fetuses whose mothers have decided not to carry them to term. Now the cry is, "Abortion is murder!"

And we've reached the heart of the matter. It's really not about harvesting baby parts for the sake of profit. That isn't what's happening; even the New England Journal of Medicine has nixed this claim. Also, PPFA doesn't discuss donation until the pregnant girl or woman has already made her decision, and the only "profits" go to infants in desperate need of transplants and all kinds of people who benefit from medical advances made with the tissues.

So what this really boils down to, yet again like some dogmatic trope that won't go away, is a woman's right to choose what happens to her own body.

There are lots of people who are against the right to choose, and they use terms like "murder" to apply to abortion. Okay, I get that; I might not agree with them, and in fact they are now in the minority in America, but they're entitled to their opinion. However, it's time they admitted that their outrage at the scintillating story from CMP—and the reason they refuse to believe the truth about PPFA—is that they have a problem with abortion. Nothing else.

PPFA does nothing other organ collection and donation organizations don't do. They don't sell body parts or tissues from anyone, to anyone, for any reason. What they do is provide family planning advice, birth control, STD testing and treatment, and cancer screening for women and (as appropriate) men, especially for individuals who can't afford to go elsewhere for these services.

What these outraged individuals—whatever their motivation—are doing is making a difficult situation much, much worse. They're denying access to organs and tissues that benefit humanity, they're removing prevention and treatment for STDs and cancer, and they're fostering the creation of more and more unwanted humans in a world where there are already too many people.

Where's the outrage now?