Further Thoughts on Planned Parenthood or, Why Not the Church?


IMG_0330The debate and controversy over abortion might seem relatively new, something arriving in the last century, but in the ancient world the practice of abortion wasn’t entirely uncommon. Both the Greeks and Romans engaged in it, as well as infanticide. The early Christians, unsurprisingly, forbade abortion and infanticide. The morality of protecting human life within Christianity is a constant from our foundation to the present day, but how that life is protected has changed. In our earliest days the Church would take care of women or abandoned babies, helping them along the way. Today we protest and petition Caesar, whereas in the ancient days Christians protested the action, but petitioned the heart. Therein lies the difference.

With all the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its utility to a community contrasted against the abortions it provides, there’s one question few people have asked: Why has Planned Parenthood supplanted the Church? Why is it that a pregnant woman, unable to provide for her pregnancy, is sooner found knocking on the door of her local clinic rather than her local church? Even if she doesn’t seek abortion and instead seeks medical aid, the Church seems to be the last place she’ll go. It seems that we’re faithful to our roots in keeping our morality, but not in living our morality.

What is the greater harm to the world; a doctor selling the parts of a baby, or a Christian refusing to provide church funds to help a pregnant woman because she “conceived in sin?” Perhaps we could argue over which is worse – and certain trafficking and profiteering in human body parts ranks up there – but it’s impossible to deny that our actions are somewhat responsible for the current evils. What if, when a woman needed prenatal care, she knew she could go to her local Church and they could at least get her in with the right services? What if she knew a local member who would employ her and give her maternity leave, without fear of losing her job? What if she knew that all her needs – and the needs of her child – could be met by the simple act of walking into a Church? Even with the State’s blessing on abortion, surely we’d see abortion rates plummet.

Perhaps our problem is we see the abortion debate as a debate over an issue and not over persons. Abortion, as a term, is quite abstract. As someone trained in philosophy I can sit here and provide solid arguments on why a fetus is a human being with certain rights and never once mention religious reasons, but such a debate often ignores the realities of the world. After all, once aware a Holocaust was taking place in Europe, the world did not engage in academic debates over whether it was right or wrong, but acted against it. Likewise, there is no real debate over the rightness or wrongness of abortion, everyone, at some level, knows it’s wrong. But few, especially within the Church, are taking action against it beyond calling for legislative change. I believe we act this way because we treat abortion as an issue and not as a crisis of humanity.

Yet, abortion is a crisis in every sense of the term. That a woman feels her only resort is to kill her child in order to get by in life indicates she faces crises in her life, that pregnancy is the last one and she cannot handle it. Abortion is the act of taking one life, but always takes two souls; the body of the child is crushed and destroyed and the soul is lost, but the mother’s soul faces years of pondering and regret thereafter. Abortion is always a tragedy, for both the child and mother, for while the two are separate, they are linked.

The solution to ending abortion is to act as our forefathers did, to engage the person and serve the community. Where our ancestors had an advantage – they were unified and didn’t have thousands of denominations to overcome – we are disadvantaged, but the present time requires us to put aside some differences for the common good. Perhaps we can pool our resources and begin to offer an alternative, a better organized alternative, to Planned Parenthood. While we may never be unified in the time of the Divine Mysteries, perhaps we can find enough unity to protect life and bring a little more light into this dark world.

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Lions, Tigers, and Humans, Oh My! About the Life and Outrage


Kevin Carter's famous Pulitzer Prize winning photo, 1993

Kevin Carter’s famous Pulitzer Prize winning photo, 1993

As everyone has heard, Walter Palmer of the United States shot Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, causing international outrage and making people hate dentists even more than usual. People are rightfully upset; the lion posed no threat to Palmer, he merely wanted to mount the head (and leave the body) as a trophy, the death served no purpose, and worst of all, the killing was illegal. People are (rightfully) calling for prosecution against him. Others have gone a bit further, arguing that we ought to capture him, hunt him, tie him down, and skin him alive. Of course, such suggestions are hyperbolic, but the rage is there.

Where we aren’t seeing any anger or rage, however, is over other doctors choosing to kill humans and sell their body parts. The videos are so upsetting that even Planned Parenthood’s staunch defender Hillary Clinton admitted that the organization ought to be investigated. Imagine if Jimmy Kimmel broke down in tears over this controversy, or Piers Morgan called for the killing and selling of the doctor’s body parts. Why is it that a lion – majestic though it is – gains more sympathy and attention than a human being, who is infinitely more majestic than a lion?

Rage also lacks in multiple other areas. There are no celebrities shedding tears over the fact that one in three people in sub-Saharan Africa face hunger and starvation on a daily basis, or that nearly half (46%) live on less than $1.25 a day. Africa remains a continent in crisis, but we avoid outrage because such outrage would demand action, and action requires work, and we’re lazy. It’s understandable and noble to be upset over the unjust killing of an African lion; but it’s inexcusable to lack any feeling or outrage over the death or suffering of an African human.

Rage lacks – at least for the white portion of America’s population – for African-Americans who live in fear of the police. A week can’t go by where we hear about another innocent black man (or recently, black woman) getting killed by the police under suspicious circumstances (at best). Yet, more energy is spent over the unjust death of a lion than the unjust death of a black man in an Ohio Walmart, or black child in an Ohio park, or black woman in a Texas jail cell.

The saying “life is cheap” isn’t exactly true; for Dr. Palmer to kill Cecil the Lion it has cost him his business, his reputation, and – hopefully – his freedom. The man deserves justice for what he has done, there is no doubt. Life, for Dr. Palmer, certainly isn’t cheap and comes with a cost. But, there is a certain truthfulness to the saying if we simply say, “Human life is cheap,” unless of course you’re Planned Parenthood, in which case human life is quite profitable.

Lord knows we can’t be outraged over every act of murder, over every loss of life, as we’d simply stew in anger for the rest of our days. It seems that as humans we sometimes require violence on our brethren almost as much as we require oxygen. Their blood is our water, their body is our bread in some twisted, evil, demonic version of the Eucharist. Perhaps, however, we should show some outrage over the loss of human lives. Not just hashtags on Twitter, but protests and – hopefully – action. Not on a legislative level, but on a personal, communal level.

We can ask the government to investigate Planned Parenthood (and we should require such a thing), but we can’t ask them to investigate the life of a woman considering an abortion. Only on the local level can a community come together and help such a woman and provide care. We can ask the government to send money and food to Africa, but we can’t ask them to do so in a sustainable way. After all, such an action is basically neo-colonialism, and colonialism is what got Africa into this mess in the first place. Until we begin to help Africans make Africa stronger on a personal and communal level, we won’t see much change. We can ask the government to put laws in place that keep police accountable, and we should, but there’s only so much they can do. Until the community – especially the white community – stands up against police abuses against African-Americans and other minorities, nothing will change in any drastic way.

Human life is valuable by virtue of being human. Human life is more valuable than any other type of life on this planet. That doesn’t give us an excuse to abuse such life (because we are dependent upon it, and they are still God’s creation and we are their stewards, not masters), it does mean that for all the noble and justified effort we put into preserving animal life, we ought to put at least as much into preserving human life. After all, when we cheapen human life, whether that life belongs to a fetus, a person of a different color, or a person of a different nationality, we inherently devalue our own life as well.

Oh the Things You Shall Never See: The Culmination of Individualism


IMG_0259What began as a YouTube video spreading across mostly conservative websites has gained some attention from mainstream media outlets. That video is, of course, of a Planned Parenthood executive admitting to selling body parts (or, as Planned Parenthood clarified, “tissue” for research), which is not only explicitly illegal, it’s highly unethical. I’ve written enough about abortion on this site that, I believe, there’s simply no refuting the absolute immorality of the act. By every scientific standard, from conception to birth, what exists inside a woman and grows within her is a human being.

After all, we wouldn’t say that in donating a limb, lung, or leg that we’re donating the woman’s limb, lung, or leg. Everyone, regardless of their leanings on pro-choice or pro-life, admits that what’s being sold by Planned Parenthood was formerly the fetus, not formerly the mother. It’s not her body we’re selling, it’s the fetus’ body we’re selling; so to say a woman can do what she wants with her body, while true, is inapplicable in the abortion debate as the fetus isn’t a part of her body (in the same way that her skin, or arm, or heart is a part of her body).

But what is true is that the fetus is entirely dependent upon the mother for existence. Up until about 7-8 months (thanks to modern medicine), a fetus must depend upon the mother’s body for sustenance. It is here where many attempt to make the ethical argument for bodily autonomy: The mother is autonomous from the fetus, therefore even though the fetus is a human being, and human beings are entitled to rights, those rights cannot trump the autonomy of the body. In other words, at the very moment you impact my body I can kill you.

I’ve written about the contradictions conservatives show in being pro-life while supporting anti-life actions, but liberals aren’t any better. See, abortion is ultimately an argument that arises from individualism. One cannot, within the bounds of reason, sanity, and science, argue against the humanity of the fetus or embryo. It is a human being and there is nothing magical about vaginas (or C-sections) wherein a fetus is sprinkled with fairy dust and comes out a new creature, a human being. From conception to birth, from infancy to childhood, from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to adulthood, from adulthood to elderly, we’re dealing with a human being. Human beings, by virtue of being human beings, hold innate value; if we did not, then a majority gets to decide who has value and who doesn’t, and if history is any indicator allowing the majority to decide who is valuable and who isn’t always ends in horrible things.

The only real defense for abortion – other than appealing to the practical outcomes, such as healthcare, woman’s future, and so on, which though real concerns are not arguments for choice as they’re arguments against a horrible system – is to appeal to the autonomy of the individual. But who among us is actually autonomous? Who among us can say that we live in a vacuum where our decisions do not impact the world, where we can live in complete isolation without aid from anyone else? The idea of individual autonomy is a leftover value from the Enlightenment, and it’s a horrible value, one that acts as a centerpiece for Randian Objectivism, modern conservatism, modern liberalism, and pretty much any daft frat boy roaming a college campus. The idea that as individuals we are autonomous is just stupid on the face of it, but somehow it’s held as a sacred and divine right when it comes to abortion (and only to abortion).

Think about it: Does a business owner have a right to do anything and everything he wants with his company? After all, if he’s an autonomous individual, why should he be held accountable to his employees (in treating them fairly)? Why should we, as a society, care about the poor, or bombing other countries, or about any societal obligations if we are autonomous individuals? We can’t say, “Do what you want so long as you don’t harm anyone,” because abortion harms a distinct, different, and wholly other individual.  In the end, we must acknowledge that we do have ethical obligations to others, and the closer the relationship (especially our involvement in creating that relationship), the bigger those obligations become.

See, Americans are individualists when it’s convenient. Americans are apt to speak about being fulfilled in a marriage, but hardly ever in fulfilling a marriage. An American might defend a woman’s right to her own body when it comes to abortion, but criticize that same body if it gets too fat for our tastes. We believe we have a right to do what we want with our bodies, but by God you better not smoke in my vicinity. When you smoke in public, your actions towards your body impact those around you; when you get an abortion, your actions towards impact the fetus within you. In both cases, your choices negatively impact another human being.

Our obsession with an individualism of convenience allows us to never question which sweatshop made our clothes, never allows us to question the treatment of workers, never allows us question abortion. By ignoring our societal obligations we continue to rob human beings of life, both in the womb and even outside of the womb (do you think we were thinking about the common good when we bombed the hell out of Iraq?). “So long as there is life, there is hope,” so the maxim goes. But if we consistently destroy life for our selfish desires, no matter how noble we think those desires might be, then what hope do we have?

So yes, what Planned Parenthood is doing is quite disgusting, but it simply adds to the already horrendous act of abortion. It’s quite sad that a group that offers other good services – needed services – to women feels it must engage in such a horrible act. Some attempt to say that, “yes, but abortions only account for a fraction of what they do!” But who cares? If abortion is the taking of a human life, does it matter what percentage it accounts for? Abortion in and of itself is wrong and it’s quite difficult to make a strong argument in support of abortion. Again, the only legitimate arguments boil down to the health of the mother, the cost of healthcare, the sacrificing of the mother’s career, placing the child in perpetual poverty, and so on; but all of these deal with procedural failures on the part of our society and speak nothing to whether it’s right or wrong to kill a fetus.

In the end, we really need to look at ourselves and ask if this is a society we want. Do we really want a society where not only we allow the killing of other human beings, we allow the profiting off of their body parts? Do we want to live in a world where life isn’t valued, but harvested? Such a world is dark and disgusting, but such a world has existed in the past, and we condemn previous generations for allowing that world to exist. Shall we be condemned as well?

The Importance of Life or Why Funding to Planned Parenthood is Inconsequential


Rob Schwarzwalder over at Life News wrote back on May 6 about how our media can’t help but to refer to unborn children as, well, unborn children. He writes,

Here are some things in life you just can’t avoid:  Death and taxes come to mind, of course, and the seeming inevitability of the Cubs’ ultimate collapse. There are others.  One of them is the inescapable reality that abortion involves not a collation of tissue but the destruction of a person, a human being.

This is not just a theological assertion or philosophical rumination: We know from medical science that from conception, the unborn child has the entire DNA of a fully mature adult.  What changes at time of birth is not the humanness of the child but his or her place of residence: For nine months, the womb was home; for the remainder of a person’s life, it is the world around us.

Even the mass media cannot help itself.  In ordinary stories, the personhood of the child pops up in the simple reportage of stories of the day.  However much the pro-abortion movement has sought to shape the language of popular culture and public education, the fact that the little ones in the womb are, in fact, people, keeps intruding itself into public discourse.

He then goes on to give examples where the media refers to the fetus (I use the word “fetus” in the proper sense, to refer to “a little one” and do not use it as a way to rob the humanity from the unborn) as an “unborn child” rather than “mass of tissues.” By calling the fetus “unborn child” they recognize the humanity involved in pregnancy.  Continue reading

Hitler, Darwin, and a Question – Oh my!


I was asked the following question:

Did Darwin’s teachings on evolution necessarily cause Hitler’s view and actions of genocide?

I provided the following answer:

It’s a tricky connection. Naturalism does not necessarily lead to a belief in a superior race; but such a conclusion isn’t non-sequitur with naturalism either. That is to say, while one will not always conclude, “Genocide is okay” after reading Darwin, one can certainly use Darwin’s theory as a justification in his defense of genocide. (see: The Descent of Man by Darwin for Darwin’s view of the races).

Continue reading