Today, the Senate took a vote on the issue of defunding Planned Parenthood. It was a swift move, brought on by four controversial videos that showed Planned Parenthood officials speaking callously and casually about the killing of unborn babies.
These undercover videos showed activity that varied between morally disgusting and completely illegal, among it being the sale of baby parts (and the haggling over prices,) the discussion of how to perform the operation to save the most valuable organs, post-delivery abortion, and the implication of profit.
These revelations brought universal condemnation from the conservative politicians and, for the first time in a long time, put liberal politicians on the defensive. The Republican Party has, for a large portion of my lifetime, been defined as the reactionary party - liberals create controversial issues and the Republicans react to them. The fortunes have reversed on this issue, however, and the response of the Democratic Party has been uneven at best.
As I've watched this issue evolve, I've become more and more incredulous at how those who are pro-choice respond. I've seen multiple people fall back on logical dodges I learned about in middle school, grasping for straws in the face of this glaring, moral issue. Even Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has stumbled about for an appropriate response, contradicting herself multiple times and calling it a misunderstanding.
By far the worst of the logical blunders has been in Planned Parenthood's stubborn redefinition of the issues. Almost every response I seen has been tailored to shift the focus of the issue off of the moral and legal issue of abortion and onto Planned Parenthood's greater purpose, which is supposed to be women's health.
It has been maddening to watch, especially since the response has been so slippery and subtle. The spokespersons for PP stick to their guns and demonize their opponents like there is no tomorrow, chalking the issue of abortion up to right-wing extremists who hate women. They hear hard questions and repeat their list of talking points as if they were acceptable answers. The whole pro-life movement is a "fringe" issue from the "extreme" edge of the Republican party, and ought to be ignored as if it were a Republican version of ISIS. The videos were "heavily edited" (even though the original, full-length videos were released.)
In middle school, we called this a logical fallacy. The conversation essentially goes like this:
"We should defund Planned Parenthood because abortion is a moral evil and because Planned Parenthood is doing it in an illegal way." (The action with the reasoning behind the action.)
"Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood because they are trying to undermine women's health." (The response to the action that ignores the original reasoning behind the action and is thus invalid.)
Before I continue, let me say for a moment that the idea that defunding Planned Parenthood will undermine women's health is actually hogwash. Such arguments ignore the fact that the proposed bill in Congress would have redirected all of the funds - some $500 million dollars - to like-minded women's health organizations that do not perform abortions. In fact, I would doubt that defunding Planned Parenthood would be an issue at all if they did not perform abortions. So not only does Planned Parenthood refuse to answer the original issue, even their red herring answer is invalid.
Another argument I've heard is that abortions take up only a small portion of Planned Parenthood's services. But the fact that Planned Parenthood does a great deal more than abortions does not factor into the equation at all. We don't refuse to boycott countries rife with human rights violations just because they do a great deal more than violate human rights. The morality of the country as a whole is tainted by an individual issue. In the same way, the morality of Planned Parenthood as a whole is tainted by the individual issue of abortion.
The fact of the matter is that the Planned Parenthood issue is entirely an issue of abortion, not women's health. It is a moral issue, not a social issue. The fact that it has been knowingly breaking the law - or at least fudging it in a serious and widespread way - is secondary to the bigger issue.
The anti-abortion movement has been characterized with moral imperative. Abortion must be stopped because it has been evil. But the logical failing of the pro-choice movement is to try and redefine this issue as something purely practical, women's health, failing to address the ethical or legal aspect of abortion in any way.
Not once in this whole controversy have I heard the opponents of the pro-life movement actually respond with a moral argument for abortion. It's for a good reason—any moral arguments for abortion collapse in on themselves. Life, and humanity, can only be logically defined at one point: conception.
Watching these videos awakens you to the reality of the situation: that living, thriving babies are being killed in utero, and worse, that they are being murdered in such a way as to preserve their body parts to be sold. Even those who support abortion squirm, because deep in their hearts, they know and recognize these "bits of tissue" as human beings.
The fact of the matter is, abortion is an issue that should transcend political parties, because it is a moral issue. Yet when the vote on Planned Parenthood failed today in the Senate, it was split almost entirely on partisan grounds: only one Democrat voted for the bill.
We were united on the killing of innocents in the Middle East; why can't we be united on the killing of innocents in our own country? Why can't we even be united in investigating Planned Parenthood, which has been caught doing illegal activities?
But is it even possible for people to admit that they were wrong? That abortion is an evil, and that their political party isn't right every time? Or is it possible that pride and the desire to be right is going to prevail—and that this fundamental evil is going to remain a partisan issue? It is easy to disagree with a political party as a whole and not bother examining the truth of individual issues, and the politicians of the United States have taken the easy way out.
The only possible way for the Democratic Party and those who support abortion to resolve the issue is to ignore the issue. It requires living with logical inconsistency. And that is exactly what the supporters of Planned Parenthood are doing. Like those who passively accepted the regime of the Nazi party, and those who looked away when the horror of the Holocaust began, those who are pro-choice can only look away from those gruesome images and pretend like they saw nothing.
It is the tendency of "conservatives" to blow up the issues and compare them to ludicrous things, such as the horrors of Nazi Germany. All too often, these arguments fall flat, because there is really no comparison.
But when you hear the officials of Planned Parenthood casually discuss how to best kill an infant, when you hear them haggle over prices for these body parts, when you hear an aide shout, "It's a boy!" while rummaging through an aborted baby's remains, I can only think of the pictures I have seen of dead bodies, stacked outside a concentration camp.
The Auschwitz of our day is a sterile hospital room. God help any of us if we look away.