Tag Archives: pro-life

Planned Parenthood, Activism & the Ethics of Deception

This post will probably make some of you mad, question my faith and say that I’m not a Christian. But I’ve never been one to shy away from controversial topics.

Over the past few weeks, three undercover videos have been released by an pro-life group that show some of the darker details of abortion and Planned Parenthood. According to pro-life activists, these videos show doctors for Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of human organs. Supporters try to cast doubt on the videos by stating that those initially released are heavily edited and that due to their editing, the videos should be dismissed. Supporters also counter the argument that the videos are talking about recovering costs for the donation of human organs.

Before I get too involved in the discussion of the ethical implications of deception used by both sides of the argument, I want to lay out a few ground rules. This is not a discussion of the ethics of abortion! Also, this is not a discussion on whether or not Planned Parenthood is selling human organs! What I am talking about in this article is the spin both sides put on the videos and whether or not the spin is ethical.

First, I want to look at the actions of The Center for Medical Progress, the group responsible for releasing the videos. At first glance, the initial release of the first two videos do appear to a doctor discussing the sale of human organs. However, the videos that were initially released are heavily edited and are edited in a way that some information is omitted.

The big question for the activists behind the videos is, “Why do you feel the need to edit the footage to show what you want to show?” By doing so, you are creating an unnecessary bias that is hard to overcome once the unedited version is released. Basically, you’re banking on the fact that once someone has an opinion formed in your favor from the edited version, they will not change that opinion regardless of what the unedited version shows. If the unedited version of the video is as bad as you think, release just the unedited version. There’s no need to edit to fit your agenda.

To top it off, some pro-life activists have resorted to hacking Planned Parenthood, and obtained information on Planned Parenthood employees. At least a few pro-life activists are willing to break the law to take down an organization they see as breaking the law. The ends do not justify the means and the ethical stance of some pro-life activists are dubious at best and nonexistent at worst.

For those that support Planned Parenthood and discount the videos because of the amount of editing, you fail to address what is being shown on the videos and that is prices are being assigned to organs recovered from abortions. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the sale of human organs or recovering the costs from donating human organs for research. Even if the organs are being donated, there is enough evidence out there showing that Planned Parenthood is not obtaining consent prior to donating said tissue. It is one thing if proper consent is obtained from a woman obtaining abortion to have the tissue and organs donated for medical research. It is a whole other thing to do so without the woman’s consent.

And in the never ending propaganda war surrounding abortion, Planned Parenthood has gone on the attack by hiring a PR firm to deal with this latest round of videos from pro-life activists. The firm has requested that the media not show “damning videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs and tissue of aborted fetuses.” Sounds like an attempt of “out of sight, out of mind” to me.

Both sides are guilty of failing to address the root cause of abortion. One side sees abortions as ethically and morally wrong and will go extreme lengths to see that abortion is outlawed or that the procedure is damn near impossible to obtain. The other side seems wilfully oblivious to what is going on and is content to stay ignorant. (Yes, I’m talking in broad categories here. I do realize that not all who oppose abortion will resort to propaganda attacks and not all who support the right to chose are oblivious.) In short, both sides are guilty of ethical missteps. Actions like releasing highly edited footage, ignoring the overarching issues, and flat out breaking the law all point to a breakdown of ethics by opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood in ongoing discourse.

Abortion, The Cross, And The Lynching Tree

tcatlt

Content note: white supremacy, lynching, infantcide

In James Cone’s, The Cross And The Lynching Tree, he shares the story of Mary Turner. She was the wife of a Georgia lynching victim, Haynes Turner. “Mary, who was eight months pregnant, protested vehemently and vowed to seek justice for her husband’s lynching. The sheriff, in turn, arrested her and then gave her up to the mob. In the presence of a crowd that included women and children, Mary Turner was ‘stripped, hung upside down by the ankles, soaked with gasoline, and roasted to death. In the midst of this torment, a white man opened her belly with a hunting knife and her infant fell to the ground and was stomped to death.”- page 120.

No, not even black fetuses were safe from the claws of white supremacy. Cone notes that the “strange fruit” in Billie Holiday’s song is not a black adult male body. In fact, Holiday’s take on Abel Meeropol’s poem included a sexless black body. “No black person was exempt from the risk of becoming the scapegoat of white supremacy in America, not even the unborn, whose mothers, like Mary Turner, were lynched while trying to protect their families” (121).

As a pro-life progressive, I found the above quote fascinating for a couple of reasons. First, the unborn are included in Cone’s definition of person. Recently, in politics, the GOP has been pushing “personhood amendments” to work towards bans on abortion/overturn Roe v. Wade. The conservative view of personhood is faulty because they deny its sociality. The current conservative approach to the abortion debate includes an individualistic, privatized notion of sin, that makes women and doctors the lone scapegoats. And Given the fact that evangelicals are being more friendly with heresies like “conditionalism” where the immortality of the soul is dismissed, there are even more problems theologically. It is easy to consider a doctrine where souls are annihilated if you come from a culture where you’ve never been told that you are a soulless beast.

The second reason why I found Cone’s quote to be excellent is that Cone names the system of death responsible for the termination of Mary Turner’s fetus: White Supremacy. As a system of death, White Supremacy is a complex mixture of Anti-Black bigotry (the history of lynching sugarcoated, for ex.), male supremacy (a man rips outs the unborn child from Mary Turner), and social practices (mob rule & political officials not doing justice). Abortion is not an individual right to be celebrated or an individual sin to be punished for; it is a social tragedy that we should all lament over, and work for its reduction.

Pro-life progressives take a lot of slack for not being “strong enough” on abortion. But ask yourself, are the legalisms of the pro-choice and pro-life movements really benefitting the common good?

I leave you with Efrem Smith’s response to people on facebook questioning his Kingdom Approach to the abortion debate: Ephrem Smith’s abortion response

The Pro-Life Progressive: An Endangered Species?

It’s been quite a long while since I have had a political rant. It’s also been a while since I’ve written on the Consistent Ethic of Life I ride or die by. Well that ends today. Usually when bloggers go on political rants, they get on their hobby horse, and preach this holier than thou “partisanship is such so evil, let’s unite everyone and all be centrists” message that it gets pretty stale like last month’s WonderBread.

Ever since I was in high school, I identified as a pro-life Democrat, and it wasn’t until undergrad that I learned of the group of Dems known as the Democrats for Life of America. I have noticed a recent trend recently probably starting back to last year. Pro-life progressives and moderates are being unfairly criticized for not being “pro-life enough” by conservative evangelicals simply because they support or have worked with pro-choice politicians.  This backlash is spurred by primarily conservative writers.  On the liberal side of things, pro-life progressives still remain marginalized as well.  During the Democratic Nation convention, as a few times in the past, pro-life Democrats were treated as second-class citizens once again.  At Daily Theology, Kevin Ahern pointed to the rise in the number of Op-Eds making Joseph Cardinal Bernardin the scapegoat from everything to “Obamacare” to a cryptic boogey man of  “Chicago-style” Catholic politics.

As Ahern notes,

“Joseph Bernardin’s moral vision, best articulated with the phrase “consistent ethic of life,” should make us uncomfortable. Rooted squarely in the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and the Christian tradition, this vision challenges all of us to humbly reflect on how our politics, lifestyle choices, and ideologies promote or harm human dignity, with particular attention to the least among us.”

Reading Joseph Cardinal Bernardin opened my eyes to a new way of doing of viewing politics. You see, my problem with conservative and moderate Democrats (blue dog Democrats) is that they voted and behaved too much like Republicans-lites. In our two party system, the moderates are always the ones who lay claim to the moral high ground it assumed because of Big Mean Partisans! The problem with pro-life progressives isn’t that we are not “pro-life enough”; it’s that we run and hide from our particularity, we’re afraid of partisanship, when we shouldn’t be.

Let me put this another way. Because we as pro-life progressives have been marginalized by both sides of the political equations so much, we have chosen to just keep our mouths shut. With our silence, we are suppressing our own distinct voice. When we have newspapers mourning the demise of Blue Dog / Southern Democrats, this should not be seen as sad news. This should be looked at as an opportunity for pro-life liberals and moderates to make their voices heard, and not only that, to make it more distinct. Political difference isn’t something to be avoided, it is to be embraced first, and then once we have honest conversation, we can move forward towards solidarity and community.

As I have written about in the past, Protestants too have also written on the consistent ethic of life; Dietrich Bonhoeffer being just one of them. In fact, going back to the early Church, and writings like the Didache: from the second chapter: “you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born” is found in the same chapter with also “You shall not take evil counsel against your neighbor. You shall not hate any man; but some you shall reprove, and concerning some you shall pray, and some you shall love more than your own life.” Being pro-life is seen along the same lines as not harboring any bigotry; in other words, being anti-racist is being pro-life.

The Way of Life described by the Didache is the politics of the Jesus Way, while the Way of Death includes “First of all it is evil and accursed: murders, adultery, lust, fornication, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rape, false witness, hypocrisy, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, [etc.]” The Early Christian authors of the Didache recognized that Rape Culture is part of the Culture of Death.

The Didache, Bonhoeffer, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, and Pope John Paul II are just a few examples I could give from the past. In modern times, one example could be pastors like Eugene Cho (who btw, is located in the Pacific Northwest, not South) who writes about the “womb to tomb” Consistent Ethic of Life and who also lives it out with projects such as the One Days’ Wages Campaign.

To identify as a pro-life progressive, is to give voice to the voiceless. It is about taking radical actions such as not only protecting the lives of fetuses, but to also protect children from rape culture and abuse by listening to their stories. A commitment to the Consistent Ethic of Life is consistent with movements towards integral human liberation, “in choosing sides with the little ones on the margins, the Crucified Lord joins the struggle of crucified peoples of history: whether that be the enslaved Africans on American shores, a fetus conceived within the womb of a single mother or a person sentenced on death row.  The power of the Cross destroys all false idols, and its that power, the omnipotence displayed of God suffering with us that should keep Christians from making the fetus a “fetish.”

What I am not trying to say is that pro-life progressives have to vote Democrat. I would love for more Republicans to take a stand against the death penalty or support raising the minimum wage to a living wage, for example. We must come to see that politics is more than who we vote for in the voting booth. If there is to be a triumph of the Culture of Life over the Culture of Death (with its White Supremacy, infanticide, rape culture, and economic inequality), politics must be viewed as having to do with all of life. Pro-life progressives/Democrats should stop behaving/voting like Republicans in order to gain acceptance, and we who hold on to the Consistent Ethic of Life should stop acting like we are “above” partisan politics and activism. It’s well past time for Pro-Life Progressives to make a clear case for their causes across POLITICAL party LINES and REGIONAL differences..*

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

Pro-Life and Black

Pro-Life and Black, Part 2: Bonhoeffer, Slavery, Abortion, and Black Bodies

Black and Pro-Life 3: Resisting the Death Penalty in Mississippi

*I hope to address cultural/racial and religious differences, & ecumenism when it comes the Consistent Ethic of Life in the near future