|Thank you, Holmes.|
I would like the pro-life movement as a whole, and Secular Pro-Life particularly, to transcend this problem. I want ours to be an environment of truth and clarity. I am pro-life because of my understanding of the facts; we don’t need to distort facts to make the pro-life case. For example:
- Biologically, human beings begin at fertilization.
- Fetal heartbeat begins at three weeks gestation.
- The first brain waves are detected at six weeks.
- Approximately 66% of abortions are performed after six weeks.
Stating physical observations objectively is relatively simple, but many situations necessitate more interpretation. Live Action’s recent “Sex-selection in America” videos are a good example of this. (See the edited videos here and here. See the full versions here (skip to 34:00) and here (skip to 36:18).)
These videos provide an interesting collection of facts:
- Planned Parenthood employees provided information to help women obtain prenatal testing to determine the gender of their fetuses.
- When the women explained they would choose abortion if their fetuses were female, the PP employees did not protest, and were willing to schedule the women for abortions.
- In the first video (full version, 50:07) the woman expresses relief at not being judged for terminating a pregnancy based on gender. The PP employee, Rebecca, replies, “Oh no! I’m just trying to help you as much as possible.”
- In the second video (full version, 51:30), the woman expresses concern about whether clinic workers will judge her for repeated abortions of female fetuses. The PP employee, Randi, explains, “I can tell you that here at Planned Parenthood we believe that it is not up to us to decide what is a good or bad reason for somebody to decide to terminate a pregnancy.”
This spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America also told The Huffington Post that the organization condemns seeking abortions on the basis of gender, but its policy is to provide “high quality, confidential, nonjudgmental care to all who come into” its health centers. That means that no Planned Parenthood clinic will deny a woman an abortion based on her reasons for wanting one, except in those states that explicitly prohibit sex-selective abortions (Arizona, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Illinois).
How, exactly, PP “opposes sex selection abortion” is unclear; it is clear that PP doesn’t oppose them enough to refuse to perform them.
However, there is a distinction between being willing to provide a gender-based abortion, and encouraging sex-selection. This is where I think Live Action goes astray.
After watching the full versions of both videos, I found that the first edited video, filmed in Texas, is fairly representative of the full-length version. PP employee Rebecca:
- Does not discuss all of the woman’s options (such as adoption);
- Claims that 23 weeks gestation is “a little over five months–a little” (36:21);
- Recommends that, should the woman abort, she tell her friends she’s had a miscarriage to avoid judgment (50:26); and
- Reassures the woman that, even if her friends judge her, she will still have her husband and they should “just continue and try again” to have a boy (51:20).
Rebecca’s overall conduct is friendly, to be sure, but it seems something about her behavior failed to meet PP’s standards for patient care, because, according to the PP spokeswoman,
Within three days of this patient interaction, the staff member’s employment was ended and all staff members at this affiliate were immediately scheduled for retraining in managing unusual patient encounters.
Both Live Action’s edited and full-length videos left me with the same sense of Rebecca’s cheerful acceptance of gender-based abortion. I cannot say the same for Live Action’s second video, filmed in New York.
The edited version of PP employee Randi again suggests a cheerful acceptance of gender-based abortion. However, after watching the full-length version of the same video, I couldn’t help but take away a far more carefully neutral position. Unlike Rebecca, Randi does not laughingly relate to the woman’s desire for a specific gender. In fact, Randi:
- Clarifies whether abortion is the only option the woman is considering: “Have you definitely decided that you’d like to terminate your pregnancy?” (38:38);
- Shows an openness to the woman continuing her pregnancy: “If you’re looking for somebody for prenatal care I can recommend someone” (43:31), “If it was a pregnancy you were interested in continuing it would be a lot more convenient for you to be seeing someone closer to your home” (45:55);
- Refrains from promising non-judgmental behavior from OB/GYNs (48:17) and even from PP’s other clinic workers over gender-based abortions (51:30); and
- Asks “Is adoption something you were considering?” (54:05)
The central point is sufficiently disgusting; I see no benefit to us manipulating information to try to claim the supplemental implications. Indeed, I see serious drawbacks: we give our opposition the opportunity to focus on the inaccuracy of our excessive suggestions, while avoiding the accuracy of our central point. Why give them that out?