What follows will sound cynical and depressing, but it is merely a reality check. I do not believe any legal action or legislation will come of the recent Planned Parenthood videos, and I think we have already witnessed the decline or near-disappearance of what impact they will have. We need to start considering why and to learn from it.
I have struggled to bring myself to be able to admit this publicly, but I believe it is the truth, and I thought so from the beginning. Like everyone else, when I first saw the videos, I immediately lit up with optimism: “this is a bombshell!” Not just a bombshell, but the bombshell we need.
It took only a few moments of thinking, however, and I made a call to a good friend of mine—a battle-scarred veteran of the hard pro-life movement. He knows all facets of it inside and out, and he would certainly be able to answer whether this was really a bombshell, or, as I had a hunch, not. He confirmed my conscience: this has been going on for years, has been exposed in the past, the politicians have known all along, and yet it never harms the abortion industry. The only thing these videos add is how gruesome the industry can be, and how cold and indifferent its drones are behind the scenes.
None of this is enough to change the problem, mainly because the focus of the outrage is misplaced. It is placed on the gruesomeness instead of the nature of abortion itself—murder. Note the distinction well: the first is an emotional category, the latter is judicial and ethical. The emotional category is the focus, and an emotional argument can be met, manipulated, and overcome by more emotion.
At most, what will happen is what has happened in the past: a few select individuals within the industry may be reprimanded or possibly (possibly) prosecuted. If any are singled out here, they will probably be shuffled to another position in the industry somewhere. But the industry itself remains and will pretend it has cleaned up its act by ousting the few fringe offending elements.
Think Kermit Gosnell. Just like in that case, justice will not be served. Even if people go to jail, justice will still not be served. Even if you defund Planned Parenthood, justice will not be served. Even if you closed every Planned Parenthood door, the business would simply go elsewhere, and justice would still not be served. As I wrote in reaction to the Gosnell case:
Accepting this as a moral victory can actually be detrimental to the pro-life mission. To allow our wishes to sway our hearts into a feeling of satisfactory achievement against abortion is to fall into a false sense of accomplishment. This is vicarious victory of the worst kind. A false sense of victory leads to compromise and complacency at a time when we have gained no real ground in the real battle.
This is the type of false victory with which the pro-life movement too often contents itself. In just one example, pro-life forces considered it a victory when they helped pass legislation that requires abortionists to administer painkillers to unborn babies so they will not feel pain when they are aborted.
But gentler murder is still murder. . . .
Worse yet, such victories entrench compromised forces in legislatures, preventing real pro-life victories from taking place. Senators and representatives can vote for gentler murder or more informed murder bills, and yet turn back to their constituents and call themselves “pro-life”—and with the endorsement of the national pro-life group at that. Good Christian voters who wouldn’t know any better will take their word for it. Few if any abortions will be prevented by it, and not a single person will be convicted for the murders they commit because of it.
Even worse still, the mainstream “pro-life” groups will use the shock and awe to raise tons of money, yet they will do little with it but help support the politicians just described and the lightweight measures they propose.
The hard and fast truth is this: Americans want abortion, they just don’t want gruesome abortion. We can raise awareness and money by focusing on the gruesome, but you cannot make much, if any, progress against the murder itself.
What The Center for Medical Progress has done is show a particularly gruesome aspect of the abortion industry. This shocks people, but it does not make them pro-life, certainly not consistently pro-life. It makes them grossed out.
They could, however, be equally grossed-out by a knee-replacement surgery, or a caesarian section. We don’t shut things down just because they are gruesome. Gruesome makes us squirm, shout, and turn off the TV (sometimes). Things may be gruesome and yet necessary or perfectly legal. Things only get shut down when they are proven illegal or a threat to the establishment. Today, abortion is perfectly legal. So is the donation of fetal tissue. So is reimbursement for incidental costs of donated tissue. You won’t change any of this by merely showing that the process is gruesome along the way, that insiders are indifferent to it, or even that a handful abuse it.
You want to prove that Planned Parenthood “sells baby parts”? You’ll need proof that the reimbursements knowingly exceed the costs of preparation, preservation, shipping, etc. of specialized tissues. That won’t be easy to trace or even to find. Such detailed records probably don’t even exist, and as such it will be a legal snipe hunt. Congress will return from its investigations with no such proof (or only a few cases at best), the conservative faction will have no clout to move forward on any such bill. It will pronounce a general moral disapprobation of Planned Parenthood, but it will be meaningless, and no legislation will move. Even if it does, it won’t pass the Senate. Even if it does, it will be vetoed; and once vetoed, the needed supermajority doesn’t exist. Worst of all, the time and money expended to reach this logical conclusion will be wasted political capital. Such a failure will make next time harder.
Don’t get me wrong, we all know they’re selling baby parts. That’s a no-brainer. But it’s easy to do many questionable things under the penumbra of the law—and this penumbra is legendary, after all.
You know why it’s perfectly legal to maintain this insanely obvious traffic in baby body parts? Because abortion is legal. Abortion is murder, and it is legal. Once that’s conceded, nothing else matters, pretty much.
People were enraged by the CMP’s videos mainly because of a phenomenon of abortion, not because of abortion. They hate particular side-effects of it. They may even move to shut these side-effects down. But they are not taking a principled stand against the murder itself. It’s time the pro-life movement lays the axe to the root, or goes home.
There are ways we could stop abortion in this nation, but there are many obstacles in the path—the chief among them being Christians. There are hard truths that churches, church leadership, Christian organizations, and Christians must face. The process will require a unanimous pulpit, hard preaching of hard truth, and it will require tears. It will require tearing down idols in our own hearts and society.
Aside from this strait and narrow path, however, all will be only wasted time and money—and lots of it. In the days and weeks to come, I will be outlining some of the hard truths we must face on this monumental issue of child sacrifice in our midst—abortion.